Queens councilman comes out against Your LIC development following letter from community groups

jimmy van bramer
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer. (Angélica Acevedo/QNS)

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer has come out in opposition to the Your LIC development, the waterfront project four developers want to build surrounding the 28-acre land along Anable Basin.

The Long Island City council member wrote a letter explaining his opposition to the controversial development in response to an open letter by four Western Queens community groups, including Justice for All Coalition and Western Queens Community Land Trust, that called on him to “immediately and publicly oppose” the proposed project in June.

“I agree with you that the proposal for 12 million square feet, twice the height and density of Hunters Point South, is wrong for our community,” Van Bramer wrote. “COVID-19 has changed everything about our world and how we see our future. There is no question that this project as proposed would cause rents to rise in the surrounding community. There are far too many luxury apartments included and the proposed affordability is simply unacceptable.”

What Your LIC would look like

Photo courtesy of Your LIC

Your LIC’s stakeholders — MAG Partners, Plaxall, Simon Baron Development, and TF Cornerstone — revealed they are looking to develop 10 to 12 million square feet of the 28-acre land with up to 15 buildings that range from 400 to 700 feet in height, or 37 to 64 stories during a Community Board 2 Land Committee meeting in May.

They are looking to have seven acres of public open space. Developers have not specified whether the plans have been adjusted or reconsidered due to the pandemic.

During the fifth Your LIC workshop, stakeholders discussed mixed-use opportunities and focused on density. They spoke about dense mixed-use districts as places that foster “productivity,” “innovation” and “attracts and retains the next generation of workers, entrepreneurs, and community and cultural institutions.”

They said they want to make this a 15-minute neighborhood where all necessities are essentially walking distance.

“It’s really about job generating and public uses,” Gregg Pasquarelli of SHoP Architects said.

They’re planning to have 50 percent of the development for commercial space, 30 percent residential and 13 percent “community” space that includes three new public schools and space for arts and culture.

For the residential units, the developers say they have committed to 5,700 total apartments with 25 percent (or 1,400 units) being affordable, which they say is consistent with the area’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing.

The three-hour long workshop, hosted by Bishop Mitchell Taylor and Dr. Gail Mellow, took place via Zoom with almost 200 participants. The presentation portion took well over half an hour, and is posted on their website. The breakout room portion, in which Your LIC randomly assigned participants to different discussion Zoom rooms with participants and project reps, as well as the Q&A at the end is not posted.

Community’s response

Many community members have expressed concern about various aspects of the project. Some have said they take issue with the lack of open space in the plans, developing on a floodplain, whether housing will actually be affordable, and the overall outreach portion of the project.

On the other hand, in an op-ed for the Gotham Gazette, Queensbridge, Ravenswood, Astoria Houses and Woodside Houses tenant leaders wrote that the project will bring jobs and other community benefits their tenants need.

But the community groups that called on Van Bramer to oppose the project believe the public land should mainly be developed as a community land trust.

“We request a truly objective, community-led planning process that includes well thought-out, already-existing proposals from community groups, including a publicly funded wetlands park, a community land trust in the [Department of Education] building, and a public middle school,” their letter read. “The privately-held sites can be perfectly profitable if they remain zoned for manufacturing: the community does not owe anyone a rezoning if it’s a bad planning decision.”

Van Bramer agreed.

“I have said before and I will say again that all of the publicly owned land in this site should be used exclusively for the public. Not handed over to developers for profit, and I strongly support a community land trust on this site,” Van Bramer wrote on his letter. “We are also in a moment of uprising in this country where millions are marching against police brutality, inequality in all of its forms, and insisting that Black lives matter […] If I am not convinced that a project is going to reduce income inequality, I can’t support it. We must view this proposal, and all future proposals, with a view towards racial equity and economic justice.”

“We cannot keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results. We need to fundamentally change how we view development in New York City,” he added. “I do believe that something should happen on this land, but this proposal isn’t that something. The current proposal is not right for our community and I oppose it.”

Your LIC’s next steps include beginning the environmental scoping process by the end of this year and submitting a formal ULURP in 2021.

In a statement regarding Van Bramer’s stance, the group pointed to how the City Council brought them together last summer in order to create a comprehensive plan for what would have been the Amazon site.

“Since then, we have brought hundreds of Long Island City residents together for community visioning sessions, both in person, and after COVID-19 hit our city, online,” their statement read. “As a result of what we heard from the community, we have a proposal that would bring up to 26,000 permanent new jobs, 1,400 units of affordable housing, a workforce development center, resilient infrastructure, a public park, three new public school sites, a recreation center, space for arts and culture, and more to the neighborhood. We have paid close attention to the Council Member’s statements and priorities for the waterfront, and we hope to continue working constructively with him to shape a plan that works for everyone.”