Some new things in the Queensbridge-Ravenswood area

It has been one and a half years since the last post on this blog. And for some reason, according to stats, people still visit this blog. Now would be a good time to make note of some new and potentially new things in the Queensbridge-Ravenswood area.

Vordonia

Quietly, Alma Realty’s 404 unit, double-tower building between the waterfront and Vernon Boulevard, has apparently opened and now has residents moving in. The site, formerly called Alma Towers, is now called the Vordonia Towers, ostensibly after a small Greek village, with a logo reminiscent of “Pointy Haired Boss” from the Dilbert cartoons. The Vordonia Towers took about seven years to complete since construction began in fall 2014, or more than twice the average time it takes to build a residential building in New York City. Astoria-based Alma bought the property in 2001, so we’re talking about a 20 year epic here.

So, what will it mean for the Ravenswood area? We can say that more than 400 residents will be added to our little, gritty, quiet corner of LIC/Astoria. Current listed rents range from $2,676 to $3,025 for one bedroom apartments. That’s average for Astoria, according to RentHop, but probably higher than average and the median for this corner of it, even among private rental buildings alone.

For sure, there will be population growth. The influx from Vordonia alone, might mean more people on the Q103/102, walking down 36th, 35th and Vernon avenues to the subways, getting coffee at Flor de Azalea or Château le Woof, using the Citibikes, going to Rainey and Socrates parks, etc. They won’t use the 9th Street Laundromat because they’ll have washers and driers, according to these cheesy promotional videos by real estate company, Compass’s “Irizarry Team.” One video is especially…. let’s say, avant-garde?: a woman looks out her window, drinks from a mug on her balcony, rides a stair master in slow-mo (as we see from below and behind), meditates, and in an epic sequence, struts up Vernon Boulevard in a black jacket and shades, returns to her apartment where candles are already lit, removes her bag and her coat revealing her crop top situation, then sits carefully down to look out the window again. Her window apparently does not face Big Allis.

The videos attempt to sell the towers by selling Astoria: its parks (Astoria Park, not Rainey or Socrates for some reason), shopping (aerial of Costco’s parking lot) and diverse cuisine. But the Vordonia Towers are barely in Astoria. I say this directly to the new and prospective Vordonia tenants: This area is sort of Astoria, or “South Astoria.” There is a distinct difference in ambience and geography from Astoria proper. In fact, I should change the name of this blog to “Not Astoria.” This neighborhood, from south of the Queensborough Bridge to Broadway, was actually historically called Ravenswood, which along with present Dutch Kills was the 19th Century third ward of Long Island City. Most of the neighborhood’s population lives in the Queensbridge and Ravenswood houses. That’s why I’m calling it Queensbridge-Ravenswood. There are delis and takeout spots but not many restaurants per se over here. (Queensview is part of it too, but that community is especially close to Broadway.) This is a largely industrial area, abundant with light manufacturing and warehouses. As Vordonia residents, you will live across the street from a drug and alcohol rehab and a vape store, and directly next to the largest power plant in New York City, the Ravenswood Generator/Big Allis, which periodically lets out huge plumes of steam from its side – recently, a misguided social media post got everyone thinking there was an explosion – and the air can smell odd nearby. In fact they call this asthma ally. By the way, if you take a picture or video of the plant from the sidewalk, a security guard might drive up to you in a truck and possibly harass you. From Vordonia, it’s a 20 minute walk/hike/trek to the main strips of restaurants and bars on Broadway or 36th Avenue. Also, this is the corner of Astoria but it’s also the corner of Long Island City. Why do real estate people seem so often to know the least about places they market? Why only mention the neighborhood to the north, not the neighborhood to the south, when the property being discussed is on the border of both? LIC has stuff too. Besides food, this whole area has a plethora of art institutions and cultural events. Vordonians will find a museum and an arts park with cultural programming less than two blocks up the street. Let’s not ignore or erase where we actually are.

35-01 Vernon Boulevard

Agayev Holding plans to replace 35-01 Vernon Boulevard with a nine-story residential and commercial building.

Half a block south of the Alma thing, on the corner of 35th Avenue and Vernon, is a two story, wide, brick building with a bold marble doorframe. The building, according to City Planning’s Zola map, was built in 1931. The site’s 1995 Certificate of Occupancy listed it as a factory, office and warehouse. New York YIMBY reports obscure developer Agayev Holding is seeking to build a nine story, mixed use property on the site. YIMBY says the proposal involves 107 residential units, 27 of which would be below market-rate. The vision for this building also involves retail and light manufacturing, which I suppose means there’s a practical anticipation of what would be demanded of a building in this context. Both Vordonia and this thing are part of a series of large, new waterfront residential structures that have been cropping up along the lower Astoria and Ravenswood-East River waterfront, along with Vernon Tower and the 500+ unit Astoria West fortress with its bougie rooftop pool, north of Broadway.

Astoria West hung a banner with Florida-like colors over a rough patch of waterfront.

The proposed structure down at 35th Ave is much more inside the neighborhood historically known as Ravenswood, and would be a significant addition to this immediate neighborhood, not just in numbers of people and a possible gentrification effect, but in retail, of which we have very little here. The whole waterfront is changing. If Big Allis and the IBZ were to go, I’d have to get a better paying job.

Across from Queensbridge, meanwhile, those giant, graffitied, gray buildings are on their way to becoming Urban Yard, apparently a kind of office complex. When I started this blog in early 2018, I had my eye on those structures. I even tried calling the escalator repair business that I believe was there but no one would talk to me. Recently I noticed a tree growing out of a window. Sometimes I suspected squatters lived inside. On the day I moved here in 2015, got a coffee at Hot Bagels and stored some things at Cube Smart (I had fled a situation in the Bronx and had no apartment for a week or two), I felt like I was moving into an area on the figurative “edge of town.” I still feel that way, but I knew those large gray things looked too much like New York in the ’80s or something, and would be redeveloped soon.

I took this picture in summer 2021 when the Amazon warehouse opened on 21st Street.

In the very first blog post for Corner, I mentioned that the Green Apple supermarket unsurprisingly closed, I guess the final spark of inspiration to start this blog! Last summer, an Amazon warehouse opened at that site.

Since the summer of 2020, I wasn’t sure if I’d continue this blog. From the beginning it seemed like a possibly arrogant and annoying thing to do. But I had a kind of respect for hyper-local blogs, and I wanted to do some writing on my surroundings. While in quarantine in 2020, I started a potential blog post, which turned into a bigger project that I’m still researching. I also filmed the city council primary race for the 26th District. I still need to do a final edit on that. Thanks for coming to this site. As always, I never know if I’ll be back.

Permits filed for 14th hotel site in Ravenswood IBZ

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Above, 13 of 14 sites I’ve counted in or near the edge of the Ravenswood IBZ, a dramatic cluster for an otherwise low-scale industrial zone. 

New York YIMBY reports permits were filed for a 15 story hotel in the northwest section of the Ravenswood Industrial Business Zone. The ten block zone stretching along the waterfront from Queensbridge to 37th Avenue west of 21st Street is literally overrun with hotels counter to zoning intended to preserve manufacturing – as Corner has detailed. Most of the hotel sites (several haven’t been finished yet) are concentrated towards the southeast part of the zone along 40th Avenue. This new site at 37-10 10th Street is the third I’m aware of along 37th Ave and would be the most northwest of the cluster, near P.S. 76 William Hallett. The permit was filed by developer Dun Zhang with architect Gene Kaufman, which tells us this won’t be another Hotel Nirvana. On April 23, a week less than 60 days ago, the Department of City Planning launched a 60 day public review process for a proposal that would only allow hotels in the IBZs with a special permit.

A souvenir shop opens in industrial Long Island City

giftshop_facinghotel

A Times Square-style souvenir shop has opened in industrial Long Island City. Just New York Souvenir, at 38-85 13th Street, half a block from the NYCHA Queensbridge Houses, sits within a 10 block Industrial Business Zone where low-rise warehouses and factories dominate but at least 13 hotel sites have cropped up.

“This looks like something on Canal Street,” said a man who stopped in mid-day to sell recycling services. Continue reading “A souvenir shop opens in industrial Long Island City”

New gray block building shines blue in the night

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For months I watched men lay bricks at 12-02 37th Avenue, creating a gray block building in the middle of the Ravenswood industrial business zone. It is so gray and blocky it looked like they were building a castle or a fort. Now with the exterior done, the building is totally more flamboyant at night, its surface illuminated by blue lights, giving it a jazzy, almost night-club like appearance in the industrial area. Most of the buildings that have gone up in the zone lately are hotels. I’m not sure yet if this is a hotel. And guess what, this is also a hotel! Of course it is. It took me a minute to call the wrong architect to find I had the wrong address and wrong paperwork to find a proper link explaining. And that architect? Also building a hotel in the Ravenswood IBZ (at 11-02 37th Ave.) Of course. ***Another update: Google Maps has this place listed as Hotel Nirvana! Well, nevermind. I like the way New York YIMBY described the 12-02 37th Ave development plan 2.5 years ago:

“The development would rise 100 feet into the air on a vacant lot between 12th and 13th Streets, in a sleepy commercial no-man’s land near Ravenswood Generating Station and the Roosevelt Island Bridge… In fact, it seems like an odd place for a hotel. The surrounding blocks are dotted with low-slung warehouses, two-family homes, and the large Ravenwood Houses public housing project.”

But we know now that the Ravenswood IBZ, intended to preserve industrial business space, is a small forest of hotels surrounded by the tall grass of warehouses and small factories. So anyway, this hotel definitely has a stubby shape in comparison to the others. I’ll just say it again. It’s a gray block thing. But at night, that’s when it lets its freak flag fly.

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Pacific Rim

(This post was adjusted to conform to learned information.)

Continue reading “New gray block building shines blue in the night”