More than 300 movers and shakers who have made Long Island City one of the fastest-growing neighborhoods in the nation over the last decade gathered at the Museum of the Moving Image on Tuesday, Nov. 15, for the Long Island City Partnership bi-annual LIC Summit.
The marquee program was the first major event for new Long Island City Partnership president Laura Rothrock, who succeeded longtime leader Elizabeth Lusskin in August. Rothrock said she has hit the ground running since taking over and she called Lusskin a great mentor.
“Our summit today is really focused on Long Island City’s resiliency through COVID, but also how we can be a model for the rest of the city moving forward and looking ahead.” Rothrock said before kicking off a panel discussion with Deputy Borough President Ebony Young, Partnership for NYC President and CEO Kathryn Wilde, and Councilwoman Julie Won, who will have a say in the future of the $2 billion Innovation QNS mixed-use development in Astoria when it comes before the Council for a vote before Thanksgiving.
Won has been negotiating with the developers behind the project holding out for 55% affordability among its nearly 2,800 units. An audience member broached the subject with Won, saying housing is more expensive, so if the city had more supply, prices would go down.
“It’s incredibly important in a time like this now for us to think beyond what we have seen over and over again.” Won said, adding that more must be done to handle the housing crisis. She mentioned a Nov. 9 visit to the Borden Avenue Veterans Residence in Long Island City with Mayor Eric Adams, who supports Innovation QNS with its offer of 40% affordability.
“There are many ways that we can think about how to work in the system that currently exists as we wait for the state legislature to come back and figure out another tax incentive that works for them to build more housing,” Won said. “We don’t have time to lose and no one should be going unhoused. My schools should not be overflowing with students who have no housing and can’t do laundry because they don’t have access. That is not okay.”
Wylde added that her priority is the affordability of housing and she’s hearing more and more from employers.
“They’re trying to attract young talent back to the office — back to the city — and they’re seeing real obstacles. We see average rents in the city are now higher than pre-pandemic and so this is creating a big issue,” Wylde said.
Young moved the discussion back to burgeoning industries in Long Island City, including life sciences and tech.
“I think if we stay open to inviting business, inviting people into our city, specifically into Queens but never forget our most marginalized at the same time, Queens can be a place that everybody wants to work,” Young said. “I just want to encourage everybody to come back to the table together, all levels, all thinking, all people in ways that we can make and produce a better Queens and a better Long Island City.”
Among the other featured speakers at the LIC Summit was MTA Chair & CEO Janno Lieber.
“The fate of Long Island City as a dynamic community and the fate of transit are intertwined,” Lieber said. “A lot of people credit Long Island City’s success with its proximity to Manhattan but it’s really its proximity via mass transit. We all know that a short trip across to Manhattan can be a lot longer in an automobile but thanks to the plentiful transit options, it’s nothing.”
However, he cautioned that the transit system is at risk of rapidly approaching a fiscal cliff due to the reduction of ridership post-COVID.
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.