City cuts ties with Your LIC as community groups renew calls for moratorium on luxury development

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Photo courtesy of Your LIC

The city announced it will cut ties with the Your LIC project after it couldn’t come to an agreement with the four developers who are looking to build on the 28-acre land along Anable Basin.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s spokesman Mitch Schwartz told Politico and Patch that they are “disappointed that the proposed project does not deliver” on some of the city’s requirements for the development project.

“We remain committed to Long Island City’s future as a thriving mixed use community. That means supporting proposals that properly account for the development’s critical infrastructure needs and impacts, like open space, transportation and water and sewer,” said Schwartz.

Your LIC’s developers, MAG Partners, Plaxall, Simon Baron Development, and TF Cornerstone, were brought together by City Council Speaker Corey Johnson last year in order to create a comprehensive plan with community input well before the ULURP process.

The current draft delineates 10 to 12 million square feet of the 28-acre land in Long Island City’s waterfront with up to 15 buildings that range from 400 to 700 feet in height, or 37 to 64 stories, with seven acres of public open space. The plan also calls for 50 percent of commercial space, 30 percent residential and 13 percent community space that would include three new public schools and space for arts and culture.

Developers say they’ve committed to 5,700 total apartments with 25 percent (or 1,400 units) being affordable, which they say will be consistent with the area’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing metrics. When asked for specific price range for the units, Your LIC Spokesperson Jovanna Rizzo said they did not have those specifics yet.

With the city backing out of the project, the public land portion of the project will be removed from the plans. Schwartz added that TF Cornerstone will continue to be the city’s partner in the development of the site.

Plaxall’s Managing Director Paula Kirby said they will continue working with the community to create a plan for the waterfront.

“Our family has been part of this community for 75 years and continues to believe in a vision for our Anable Basin property that builds on LIC’s history as a center of innovation, provides workforce and job opportunities, mixed-income housing, and a public waterfront at the Basin,” said Kirby. “Our family remains committed to that vision. And we will continue to work hand in hand with the community toward creating a better future for LIC residents, Queens and New York City.”

Local community organizations have rallied against the project for months, presenting several points as to why the project may not benefit the immediate community, including environmental concerns due to the areas flood plains as well as housing and jobs that may not work for Queens residents.

The groups have also brought up a debate about whether public land should be given to private developers. Western Queens Community Land Trust along with JFAC and other organizations are instead calling for a community land trust, and have created plans for the Department of Education building to turn into a community center.

Screenshot of existing conditions graphic by Your LIC

“We do want the public land to remain public. We absolutely think it should. In fact, whether or not to give away public land to a private developer shouldn’t even be a discussion,” Justice for All Coalition (JFAC), one of the main groups who oppose Your LIC, told QNS. “But we are against the project either way. We don’t need 60 stories of luxury homes and retail, especially not in low-lying flood-prone areas.”

Prior to the city’s announcement, grassroots organizations throughout Queens held a People’s Town Hall in which they renewed calls for a moratorium on all major city- and developer-led rezonings, from Your LIC to the Flushing Waterfront Development.

“The ULURP moratorium should be extended indefinitely,” JFAC stated. “The City should take the breather, should find ways to truly support residents, and eventually, to truly engage communities — through grassroots groups — about the needs of the community and what makes sense in terms of the approach. Our land use processes and practices need some serious reworking. Rather than continuing to push the same agenda, now is a time for reworking.”

Community groups and Community Board 2 members have also said Your LIC developers’ outreach has not been effective or entirely transparent.

Local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who came out against the project as it stands, said the fight isn’t over.

“The Mayor’s office called earlier today with the news. And important news it is!” he wrote on Twitter. “I came out against YourLIC while other electeds came out in support — as it was! This doesn’t end the fight though, it merely changes it a bit. Leaves the fate of the public land for later.”

QNS did not immediately receive response to requests for comment from the mayor’s office or Your LIC’s representatives regarding whether this news will change the current plans for the development or the ULURP application.

Councilman and candidate for Queens Borough President Donovan Richards previously said he supported the project as it presents a “key opportunity to create new jobs, affordable housing and much-needed community facilities.”

Richards told QNS he sees the city cutting ties with the project and pulling out the public land as a “mixed bag.”

“We don’t know if the city will ever proceed to do anything with that public land at the moment,” said Richards. “Once you pull the public land and there’s not a lot of budgetary money standing around, that means that you might just end up with a private application. So you actually lose leverage on negotiating something stronger on the public land piece right now.”

Richards added that as the former chair of City Council’s Zoning Committee, he has watched the city “run away” from private applications.

“I’m hoping the de Blasio administration will still have some conversations about that public land and what are some uses — whether it’s affordability, whether it’s more park space, the DOE building is a big issue, one of the things community wanted to see was a community center there. I’m worried we won’t really reach those conversations with this administration because of the budget crises. Based on what’s happening at the federal level, where they’re not giving aid to states, how are you going to get resources into communities, really? If you’re talking about public-private partnerships, it’s the only way you’re moving real projects right now,” Richards said. “Those are all policy discussions you could have, but if everything is no, you can’t have those discussions and it doesn’t do anything good for the borough.