Quiet 44th Drive corner becomes rallying ground against EDC waterfront development plan

44thRally_Front_faces_signs

The deep end of 44th Drive west of Vernon Boulevard in Hunters Point is usually a quiet stretch, all concrete and bricks with a great Midtown skyline view. But today several dozen people, including elected officials of the area, held a rally around some parked cars to say no to the city’s current rezoning and development plans for the strip. The current plan calls for rezoning two lots for housing, manufacturing, offices, park space and a school. The protesters say too much is being given away.

 

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The Economic Development Corporation put out Requests for Proposals early in 2016 to redevelop 5-40 and 4-99 44th Drive where the Department of Transportation and the defunct Water’s Edge restaurant are. Last summer the EDC revealed its plan with TF Cornerstone as developer. The plan involves 1,000 rental units and 100,000 square feet of industrial space. Some 250 or 25% of the units are supposed to be affordable.

Long Island City Coalition and allies want a shot at influencing a different plan. Part of the issue is population density given the state of transit and what’s said to be overcrowded schools. “We’re being walled in,” a musician said to the crowd. Instead, opponents have floated ideas such as more park space, a community center or a big school. “A permanent solution for overcrowding is this beautiful building,” someone said of the DOT behemoth behind the rally. “This is a public space. We own this,” Brent O’Leary of the Hunters Point Civic Association said.

I asked Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer if he has a plan to bring an alternative plan to the EDC. “EDC has to come to the table,” he said, as in have forums where the community weighs in. I asked how long it will take to get an alternative plan through. “Whatever amount of time that would take, it’s worth taking.”

BdB on NYCHA freeze, Blissville shelter

Mayor Bill de Blasio commented on the NYCHA boiler issue (at Astoria Houses and elsewhere) and the Blissville 100-single men homeless shelter (just 12 hours after people railed about it at CB2) on the Brian Lehrer Show Friday. On the heat issue, BDB defended himself from Governor Andrew Cuomo for saying on the show Thursday that it’s a city management issue, not the state’s failure to supply enough funds. Cuomo insisted that as a former HUD secretary (before Ben Carson) he knew what he was talking about. “Fix it!” Cuomo had yelled, as though just annoyed with the de Blasio admin. BdB retorted, “Why doesn’t he stop talking and give us the $250 million that he already signed off on?” So, the mayor and the governor are my parents. 

On the Blissville shelter (you can listen at 7:34 – and, disclosure: I work for Brian Lehrer in some capacity but am not promoting his radio show) Rebecca called in to complain about the City View 100 men shelter and the Fairfield Inn shelter opening soon with 154 families. “Are there guidelines for density? Because at this point it will be one to one,” she said. BdB:

“We care obviously to make sure that wherever there is a shelter facility, that we take into account the needs of the surrounding community and we try and balance things, but we also have a shortage of available sites,” BdB said. “We need the sites to make sure that people are sheltered and we want them to be as fairly distributed as possible and we want to think about things obviously like the impact on the immediate community.” 

A few notes:

  • Activists will be rallying at noon today against waterfront developments on 44th Drive. I plan to stop by and observe. 
  • Estée Lauder is moving “dozens” of IT jobs from Long Island to LIC, Newsday reports. The company’s tech hub will open at 1 Queens Plaza North in July. With its proximity to the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island LIC seems to be where it’s at these days for tech.

    “Long Island City is a growing hub for startups, tech and digital companies,” Michael Smith, the chief information officer said, adding, “our team will greatly benefit from being at the center of this fast-paced and vibrant environment.” 

1QueensPlazaNorth
1 Queens Plaza North, site of a future Estée Lauder tech hub.

Continue reading “BdB on NYCHA freeze, Blissville shelter”

Blissville just can’t with 100 single men shelter

Homeless shelter sitings seem to always be controversial. But the one set up last year at the City View Inn at 33-17 Greenpoint Ave in Blissville was recently converted from a family shelter to a shelter for… 100 single men. I think the discomfort level goes up a few notches in such cases, as I saw at the CB2 meeting Thursday night. You can see some highlights of the Blissville shelter discussion in this video.

A few notes:

  • There will be a rally about zoning and a TF Cornerstone development in LIC on Saturday at noon. I think I’ll be there to cover this.
  • Councilman Costas Constantinides says he wants to convert the Broadway Municipal Parking Field (lot) into senior citizen affordable housing.

ParkingFieldMap

  • A new ferry route is opening this summer from LIC to LES.
  • There’s going to be a 4th annual open 1.2 mile run in Sunnyside on the route of the St. Pat’s Parade from 12:30 to 1 on Sunday before the parade begins.
  • A “Healthy Living Pharmacy” will open this month (or is opening) in Queens Plaza at the base of Luna, a building set to open at 42-15 Crescent Street.
  • If you happen to be in jail soon, you might catch some arts. The Public Theatre will present Henry V at the Queensborough Correctional Facility in LIC 4/4.

Continue reading “Blissville just can’t with 100 single men shelter”

Cold politics surround Astoria Houses

Sure, it’s getting warmer. But a political battle over the heating system at the Astoria Houses got more complicated this week. Bronx Councilman Ritchie Torres, who chairs the oversight and investigation committee (he formerly chaired the NYCHA oversight committee), published a report claiming that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration will be to blame for six more “heating seasons” (somehow that translates to three years, apparently) with boiler problems at the Astoria Houses. The New York Daily News, in a January 29 story on citywide Housing Authority boiler issues, featured the Astoria Houses:

“While all four permanent boilers at the Astoria Houses were up and running, they were barely able to heat the building to 68 degrees. And while some developments have a redundancy — an extra boiler that kicks in if one fails — Astoria doesn’t.”

The Torres report follows the admin’s decision last November to cancel $43.5 million in financing from the Housing Development Corporation towards the Durst Organization’s 163-unit, affordable housing building, planned for the Astoria Houses campus as part of its Halletts Point mega-development. (This was supposed to be a way for NYCHA to profit from some of its land.) The deal involved Durst paying for boiler repairs at the Astoria Houses. Politico last week said the city “disputed” that pulling the finances was part of a feud after de Blasio listed Durst as an example of a campaign contributor that didn’t receive a favor: in this case, not winning a contract to run the East River ferry.

“There was a leading real estate developer and campaign contributor who wanted the contract for our new citywide ferry service. His proposal was good, but the City agency involved thought another one was better. He didn’t get the contract.”

After that op-ed, a Durst spokesman said, “Winter is coming.” Douglas Durst had also financed lawsuits against de Blasio-backed Pier 55 on the Hudson River.

A few notes:

  • State Senator Michael Gianaris makes case for gun purchase background checks.

NYT to BdB: Time to move on BQX

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A Fall 2016 slide of potential BQX routes into Queens.

The New York Times editorial board says the mayor should hurry along with the Brooklyn Queens Connector, AKA, the BQX streetcar. The editorial board does not say in the piece why it supports the streetcar (which, I think is implied), other than quoting Michael Kimmelman who four years ago said, “a streetcar is a tangible, lasting commitment to urban change.” The editorial also links to Kimmelman’s 2014 piece that actually preceded BdB’s proposal in his 2016 State of the City address. Instead, the editorial focuses more on the concept of time. And yea, the mayor only has one term left to make BQX an official plan. The Times editorial board did a similarly ambiguous writeup of the BQX in 2016 titled, “A Streetcar Ride to New York’s Future.” I guess the opinion is implied in the word, “future.” Here’s how the board concluded then:

 

“City planning is always part art. And this proposal does not lack for vision. But Mayor de Blasio, so invested until now in social welfare issues, will have to show fortitude in defending the practicality of his venture in mass transit innovation. It will have to survive the inevitable criticism of urbanites who think they know better ways than a trolley car to get around New York.”

A few notes:

  • Women on bikes will gather at Queensbridge Park on March 25, then ride to Borough Hall in Kew Gardens to advocate for gender equality AND the continuation of the Queens Boulevard bike lane.
  • Everyone to BdB: Get rid of those garbage trucks already!
    • City Limis: “De Blasio promised that those trucks will be moved out of Ravenswood Houses by Sept. 2017, but his promise didn’t come to fruition because they couldn’t find a space to put those trucks in.”
  • TF Cornerstone dialed down its tower plans at Hunters Point South.
    • TF also bought up 38-21 12th Street in the LIC Industrial Business Zone in Ravenswood, where that long colorful mural is. The Real Deal said, “A 152-key hotel was previously rumored as planned for the site, but TF Cornerstone released a statement saying the company has no plan to change the zoning from industrial use.” But, what the hell else would TFC build?
    • TFC is also building a mega-project at Anable Basin.
  • There’s an exhibit on immigrant women New Yorkers at the Queens Museum.
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney is trying to get Obama’s mental health-gun-background-check-rules back
  • State Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas pushes sexual assault legislation.
  • Councilman Costas Constantinides will celebrate Greek American achievements on Greek Indie Day at City Hall 3/5
  • It was Astoria Bookshop’s Twitter anniversary.

Politics and free food

 

I stalked Councilman Jimmy van Bramer today. Well, for five minutes I swung by the annual black history month celebration at the Jacob Riis Settlement at Queensbridge. I stood quietly in the back and noticed there was lots of free food. JVB honored a whole bunch of people. Here’s a whole list of them. What I heard sounded like a tribute to people making their community a great place by doing things such as anti-violence work.

A year ago, QB was recognized for going one year with no shootings. The streak was marked over in May. Early this year a woman caught a stray bullet by the F train station. I’m not sure what else has gone on over there other than last summer’s mural wars. Nothing like the Roxanne Wars. The film about the QB rapper Roxanne Shante will be on Netflix soon BTW. But anyway I think the event highlighted all the good stuff people are doing there.

So here’s what I think is also important: JVB said a few days ago he will run for borough president.

Here’s Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s statement on Black History Month that just came in my inbox. Why is it war themed?

A few notes:

  • Sam Roberts wrote an obituary that includes the name Samuel Robert. Read it for a history on the Kaufman Astoria Studios.

“In 1982, Mr. Kaufman, the scion of a century-old New York real estate family, led a group of investors in rescuing the Queens complex…”

  • Good news for Gibney’s girls.
  • Old news: A few days ago Councilman Costa Constantinides announced he’s officially going through with making over Steinway Street: he wants there to be mid-block crosswalks and a plaza. But I’m… not sure when and how? And he doesn’t seem to be sure where this plaza will be. Too bad no one reads this yet. I’d say, post your opinion on where the plaza should go.

Let me clear my throat

This is a blog I finally started: a notes from the edge of Queens sort of thing.

First, a quiet roll out.

A few notes…

  • That Green Apple supermarket on 21st Street by Queensbridge closed and, of course it did. I’m not sure when it happened and, it always looked closed. (One sign just says it’s being renovated but another sign says For Rent.) Meanwhile, another hotel is going up in the vicinity, next to Exile.
  • Exile, or the James Paretti Hall building is an event space now called Tammany House.
  • Flor de Azalea Café opened by Rainey Park on 34th Ave. It’s cute.

You can probably guess which corner of Astoria I’m blogging from: Ravenswood. Some call it South Astoria. I often call it Long Island City. But I intend to cover much more than my corner of Astoria. There’s too much interesting stuff all the time not to. Like, did you hear about the dead baby in the Dutch Kills Playground and the bonkers signs the NYPD plastered around the playground saying “Dead Baby”? Or the stripper strike last year and ACES closing or the Cafe Benne on Steinway being replaced by slightly hipper (IMHO) Kinship Coffee? I can’t figure out why it’s hipper (IMHO), other than perhaps the paint job and they play A Tribe Called Quest (homage to Queens?)

I know, there’s already people covering these areas without DNAinfo (wait, is that coming back, or just Gothamist?) W/e. Anyway, maybe I’ll actually really do this.