Community Land Trust Considered for Sunnyside Yards Master Plan

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Activists disrupt Sunnyside Yards meeting at Aviation High School.

At a rowdy third* public meeting for the Sunnyside Yards master plan, the new head of the planning team, Adam Grossman Meagher, said the team is considering a public land trust as part of the financing scheme.

“You can imagine part of this that’s created through traditional means,” Grossman Meagher said. “You can also imagine,” he said, part of the site as a community land trust.

A CLT is a community-based non-profit that owns the land, allowing residents to control the use, and are used to maintain affordability. There has been a CLT movement and a push in the city council.

The idea of a public land trust has been on the lists of demands by activists who’ve made their presence felt at the master plan community outreach meetings throughout the year.

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EDC’s Adam Grossman Meagher (right), LIC Partnership president, Elizabeth Lusskin (red dress) and a man guarding the door from protesters.

Protesters were a major part of this third general public meeting, holding an Occupy-style mic-check demonstration in the middle of the event. The lead protestor led the disruption from a table in the Aviation High School cafeteria where poster boards were on display around the periphery. The 50 or so participants in the call-and-response eventually targeted a small side-room where Grossman Meagher and lead consultant Vishaan Chakrabarti were leading a presentation on the emerging master plan. The protesters were not allowed inside but after they chanted a demand for entry, Grossman Meagher mentioned the CLT discussions off-handedly.

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A look at how the Master Plan is beginning to shape up.

Asked (to confirm) if the Economic Development Corporation was discussing the possibility of a CLT, Grossman Meagher said “yes,” and that the idea was on one of the poster boards. I couldn’t find the idea on the poster boards except for one board of a list of ideas heard by participants at public meetings.

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Sunnyside Yards BINGO? (Bottom left corner: CLT)

The team plans to have another meeting later this year and a master plan ready by sometime in winter. At this third general meeting, some ideas of how the plan is shaping up were on display. Check out those images in the slideshow below.

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*This was corrected: the EDC held the third, not fourth general public SSY master plan meeting.

Where is the Long Island City-Astoria border? (response to LIC talk)

So we’re finally discussing this. On July 8, LIC Talk posted, “Where is the Northern Border of Long Island City?” The blog is right that there is no easy answer. The situation of the ambiguous border has complicated my life since I’ve moved here. 

When I moved here, my apartment on 36th Avenue near 10th Street was listed online as “LIC-Astoria border.” I soon came to find “LIC” signage along the street and as north as Broadway, which LIC Talks insists is the border. My address came up alternately as Long Island City or Astoria in Google Maps. Certain websites listed my neighborhood as Astoria based on my zip code (11106.) My roommates used either name for their mailing address. At that time DNAinfo ran a crowdsourcing piece finding there was little consensus on the south Astoria border. I read a 2008 NYTimes piece placing the Ravenswood Houses in LIC. And I overheard someone by 36th Ave and 21st Street say she was going to Astoria. I read a Gothamist piece referring to the area I lived in as “South Astoria.” At an Astoria writers group at Panera Bread on 35th Avenue, someone said that actually, we were in an area traditionally known as Long Island City, when Broadway was the border. A book in the back of the Noguchi museum referred to the area as LIC. A famous 1980 NYMag piece declared the Queensborough Bridge as the upper Long Island City border. A 2011 NY Daily News piece said Little Brazil, centered on 36th Avenue, is in Astoria, while a 2017 NYTimes piece placed it in “a pocket of Queens.”

By the time I started this blog, I had already concluded that I lived in Long Island City, or a place traditionally known as Long Island City. But I knew that we had moved into an age where much of the area south of Broadway is thought of as Astoria. Also, when I told people I lived in LIC, they would say something about the area being up and coming. I would have to explain I lived in a corner heavy with South Asian and Mexican or Central American immigrants, who by the way, seemed to run the local businesses and have the largest presence in Rainey Park, which I think is different demographically than Queensbridge or Socrates. (We’ve also got Greek and Brazilian immigrants, which sounds like Astoria). I would say I lived within a field of warehouses and small factories. I’d say I lived by three public housing complexes. I explained there were few restaurants or bars here. In any case, it wasn’t the “LIC” people tend to think of. And it wasn’t the “Astoria” they think of either.

The problem, it seemed, was rooted in the fact that what traditionally separated LIC from Astoria was not a street, but the clustering of residential pockets with much industrial area in between. That industrial area was long sprinkled with homes and some fully residential strips such as Crescent Avenue as it runs through Dutch Kills. And I lived in a residential pocket within a greater industrial area. Adding to that, is how the upper rim of the Queensbridge Houses on 40th Ave feels like a solid border because it’s followed abruptly by an industrial zone. And as Queensbridge is known to be solidly in LIC, it’s easy for any residential areas north of it to seem like – well, now we’re in Astoria, or something. 

I named this blog Corner of Astoria because it rolled off the tongue well. But I never felt satisfied with that designation. And I possibly never will.

 

JVB gets Amazon mailer saying to contact himself

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Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer received one of the mailers Amazon has been sending to Western Queens residents. The latest tells him to contact himself and tell himself about the 25,000 new jobs or something. I’ve only gotten the first mailer. Of course, JVB addressed the irony in an Instagram story, now a permanent video, in which he makes it clear he won’t be calling himself to advocate for Amazon.

Ben Carson tours QB

 

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Ben Carson, one of the most interesting characters in the story of the 2016 presidential election and who is now Pres. Trump’s head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), visited a boiler and the apartment of Geraldine Harvey at the NYCHA Queensbridge Houses yesterday. He asked Harvey if NYCHA was doing a good job responding to her concerns, and, writes the New York Daily News, she said the managers are “fairly responsive.” 

Carson was in town to meet with Mayor de Blasio about NYCHA, one month after a federal judge rejected an agreement between City Hall, NYCHA, HUD and the Manhattan U.S. attorney to have a federal monitor oversee the city’s public housing system of more than 400,000 people. The judge compared the problems at NYCHA to “the biblical plagues of Egypt.” Carson recently gave NYCHA until January 31 to come up with an action plan to address the problems with, reports the Wall Street Journal, “management, lead paint, mold, lack of heat, broken elevators and vermin issues,” which sounds like lyrics from “The Message.” 

(I didn’t have my own photo of QB on hand and my Google Maps street view wasn’t working so I used a Wikipedia pic for QB, but if you want to see my less serious concoction, look below.)

Coverage: WSJ, NYDN

Continue reading “Ben Carson tours QB”

Amazon to come to Anable Basin

The Anable Basin was controversial even before Amazon said it would show up. Less than a year ago, City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, other local pols and various LIC activists were there to protest a plan to turn the strip at 44th Drive at the waterfront into a development that would somehow involve residential and industrial uses altogether. Well — no one cares about that anymore, because Amazon is coming, which is apparently the biggest business story in a while and it’s down the street from my apartment. A memorandum of understanding shows where Amazon plans to set up shop for part of it’s HQ2, and it’s the same area, just south of Con Edison. JVB and Senator Michael Gianaris were initially down with Amazon coming to LIC, but held a protest at the site today saying this was a huge $3 billion giveaway that won’t involve any public review. The mayor says the 25,000 jobs or more promised over a decade is unprecedented and the governor says the return on investment would be nine to one.  Continue reading “Amazon to come to Anable Basin”

Landmarked Kaufman Astoria Studios decor was never approved by city

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Kaufman Astoria Studios plans to present this diagram to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Kaufman Astoria Studios is one of the showiest sites in lower Astoria, with its colorful lights ablaze at night, its British phone booths at its pillars, its orange-streaked iron gates and its fancy restaurant, George’s, serving as an anchor of the Kaufman Arts District. Turns out, much of the decor on the building was never approved by the city, which granted the near-century-old site landmark status in 1978.

The film and TV studio plans to ask the Landmarks Preservation Commission for permission to make a temporary outdoor portion of George’s permanent but will also address various other decor that’s been up in spite of the landmark status for, apparently, years. I don’t know if any of the added fixtures go against the letter of the landmarks preservation law, which you could read here. A representative for the studio went before a full Community Board 1 Thursday night asking for a letter of support, stirring up grievances about the iconic studio site.

“They’re like an outside entity in our neighborhood,” said Board Member Stella Nicolaou. “They just went ahead and did things,” she said, recalling also, how the studio several years ago closed a street off permanently for private use. “It’s like a dictatorship in our community.” Continue reading “Landmarked Kaufman Astoria Studios decor was never approved by city”