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Strolling through Long Island City: Councilwoman, land use committee chairman tour local development sites

Gantry Plaza State Park, Long Island City, New York City
Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City. (Photo via Getty Images)

In the three years since the infamous Valentine’s Day breakup between Amazon and Long Island City in 2019, sleek high-rise towers continue to rise in Court Square and Hunter Point South, while the area around Anable Basin seems frozen in time.

On some days, the only sign of life in the 28-acre swath of land between Vernon and Center boulevards are provided by Culture Lab LIC presentations of musical and comedy performances on the Plaxall parking lot adjacent to the man-made inlet along the East River waterfront. In 2019, the e-commerce giant scuttled its plan to build a massive HQ2 campus along with its promise of 25,000 good-paying jobs, at Anable Basin, and other proposed development plans at the site have been shelved as well.

On Feb. 9, 2022, Councilwoman Julie Won took a walking tour of the site with Council Land Use Committee Chairman Rafael Salamanca after a discussion on partnering to ensure that residents in the district are included in future land use decisions at the site as well as the proposed Innovation QNS mega-development along the Astoria and Long Island City border.

Councilwoman Julie Won takes a walking tour of potential development sites in Long Island City and Astoria with Land Use Committee Chair Rafael Salamanca. (Photo courtesy of Won’s office)

The developers behind the $2 billion Innovation QNS proposal for transforming five blocks of “vacant or underutilized” property near Kaufman Astoria Studios into a “vibrant hub of activity and a new anchor of opportunity” with 2,700 units in the neighborhood, are gearing up for its first public hearing in the city’s public review process.

Won says she recognizes that major development comes with steep costs and impacts, and she is committed to development that reflects the needs of the district and provides more equitable housing that is deeply affordable. Her District 26 is the second-most-developed council district in New York City after District 33, which includes Greenpoint and Williamsburg, directly across Newtown Creek from Hunters Point South.

Councilwoman Julie Won takes a walking tour of potential development sites in Long Island City and Astoria with Land Use Committee Chair Rafael Salamanca. (Photo courtesy of Won’s office)

In the wave of developments, the average rent in LIC for a one-bedroom apartment had a 32% increase from the previous year, according to Won’s office. The rapidly rising rents as a result of the large-scale luxury developments have priced out many long-term residents and working-class immigrant families creating areas that are inaccessible to many New Yorkers.

“I am working toward a future that does not price out my neighbors and replace them, but works with them to create equitable housing opportunities and high-quality public spaces for everyone. We need to ensure that future development in District 26 involves everyone in our community and is inclusive of long-term working-class residents,” Won said. “I’m grateful that Chair Salamanca took the time to walk the streets of our neighborhoods. He witnessed firsthand the needs of our district and the richness of each corner that makes Astoria and Anable Basin what it is today. We look forward to a strong partnership that will create equity and dignified affordable housing in our communities.”

Councilwoman Julie Won takes a walking tour of potential development sites in Long Island City and Astoria with Land Use Committee Chair Rafael Salamanca. (Photo courtesy of Won’s office)

Salamanca represents the 17th District in the South Bronx where he has been known to be a champion of affordable housing since 2016. As Chair of the Land Use Committee, he will preside over the hearings on all rezoning matters that go through ULURP, including the Innovation QNS proposal and any future development at Anable Basin.

“Having approved over 7,000 units of 100% affordable housing in my district, I firmly believe in responsible, pro-community driven development,” Salamanca said. “As chair of the Committee on Land Use, I value my role in helping my colleagues negotiate projects in their districts that truly speaks to the needs of their communities. To understand the needs of a community is to experience the local vibrancy and culture firsthand. I thank Council Member Won for inviting me to her district. And look forward to working with her in the immediate future.”

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