By Bill Parry
The de Blasio administration announced it would invest $180 million in new city funding toward Long Island City infrastructure which has been stretched thin during nearly a decade of unprecedented growth.
The plan outlines a comprehensive approach to sustainable growth in the fastest-growing neighborhood in the country with improvements including schools, transportation, parks and sewage and water systems.
“The Long Island City Investment Strategy brings improvements in community infrastructure to a neighborhood that has experienced rapid growth,” de Blasio said. “We are investing $180 million in Long Island City to address the needs of today while preparing for a more sustainable future.”
The strategy’s genesis was a town hall meeting in March 2015 at MoMA PS1 hosted by City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Tom Finkelpearl. Many in the standing-room-only crowd unleashed a litany of complaints about the lack of affordable housing, strained neighborhood resources and concerns about the art community being forced out of the neighborhood by the real estate boom that began with a 2001 rezoning
In June, the administration worked closely with Van Bramer on a series of listening sessions with civic leaders.
“For Long Island City to continue to be a livable community, there must be a massive infusion of infrastructure dollars now,” Van Bramer said. “The investments being announced today are necessary and welcome, but they are just the beginning. I will continue to work with the community and the administration to fight for more and better transportation, schools, parks and all that the great people of Long Island City deserve.”
The funding package includes $95 million for improvements to the sewer system and water mains, has $60 million committed for a new school in Court Square which was previously announced, $10 million in additional funding for the Department of Transportation’s Hunters Point street reconstruction project, and $15 million in funding for improvements at Queensbridge Baby Park, Old Hickory Playground, Bridge and Tunnel Park and Court Square.
“We applaud the mayor for this unprecedented and urgently needed $180 million investment in LIC, our uniquely mixed-use work/live/innovate/create neighborhood. We cannot continue to be a regional hub of housing, jobs, culture and industry without the significant upgrades to our core infrastructure — including sewers, parks, schools, culture and jobs — that these investments make possible,” LIC Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said. “This investment strategy culminated several years of dialogue, but also lays the groundwork for future collective planning.”
One sector of Long Island City, the artist community that was so vocal with their concerns at the 2015 town hall meeting, hopes to have a greater say in future planning.
“As residents and workers here, artists are becoming increasingly alarmed by the rate of development and growth in the neighborhood, especially as it pertains to affordable work spaces. Any investment in Long Island City must address these concerns and include efforts to retain the area’s cultural identity,” Long Island City Cultural Alliance Co-chair Katie Denny-Horowitz said. “Today’s promise to secure affordable workspaces for artists it a good start. While setting aside 35 units won’t solve the problem, investing in artists alongside schools, streets and sewers acknowledges the cultural sector as essential infrastructure for our local neighborhoods.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr