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. By comparison, I pay $680 in rent with two roommates in a three bedroom, less than a third of what these people will be paying, and I live one block away (in a 95 year-old building). Common logic is a sudden rise in average incomes and rents induces a ripple effect in the neighborhood. Fortunately, I think it’s hardly noticeable that Vordonia has opened. My roommate doesn’t believe me.

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.

#BlackLivesMatter protests across Queens

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Protesters in Hollis (Screengrab of video by QNS reporter Dean Moses)

Demonstrations in response to the murder of George Floyd by a white cop in Minneapolis as well as other police killings of black Americans such as Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Tony McDade in Tallahassee, Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and others have been reported across Queens in neighborhoods including Astoria, Queensbridge, Sunnyside, Jackson Heights, Flushing, Jamaica, Hollis, Whitestone, Bayside, Fresh Meadows and Far Rockaway.

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Protesters on Queens Blvd (Photo credit: Twitter user @lockebox2)

“In #sunnyside queens, we started with a modest crowd—I think it snowballed as we passed so many supportive folks on the street who joined us #BlackLivesMatternyc” one of the activists tweeted yesterday. Photos show activists on 43rd Street, under the 7 Train and on Queens Boulevard where many took a knee.

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Queensbridge (Credit: IG user morgan_s)

As this was posted Friday night, a vigil honoring Breonna Taylor’s birthday was held at Queensbridge Park. A crowd filled the park for a vigil on Wednesday. A simultaneous demonstration happened across the water on Roosevelt Island. By Thursday night, someone on Twitter said, cops were arresting people for being outside at Queensbridge. “COVID-19 response is militarized in the hood,” @UpFromTheCracks tweeted.

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Photo credit: Twitter user @CRGuarino

Several hundred people rallied and held vigil at Astoria Park on Monday. On Tuesday, protesters also rallied on 30th Avenue and marched down Steinway Street. A simultaneous demonstration was also happening in Bayside.

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Photo credit: Twitter user @undercatpro

Last Saturday, hundreds in Jackson Heights rallied at Diversity Plaza, marched down Northern Boulevard and took a knee outside the police station near Junction Boulevard. On Sunday, protesters marched by the Unisphere in Corona Park, as seen in an AP photo. That night back in Jackson Heights, a vigil was held at Travers Park.

On Wednesday, the Queens Post reported, protesters led by Make the Road New York marched to Assembly Member Michael DenDekker’s office in East Elmhurst. The group says DenDekker, who co-sponsored a repeal of a law that keeps police records confidential, can push harder for police reforms, and that he has only donated a portion of the campaign money he had taken from police PACs.

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Jamaica (screengrab of vid by Twitter user @NubianPhoenixx)

In Jamaica, protesters said “thank you” to the local precinct commanding officer when he joined them in taking a knee on Jamaica Avenue and Parsons Boulevard where someone read aloud names of various black people killed by police. A few hundred people also rallied in Hollis, where the police disclosure bill was also pushed for, on Wednesday.

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Far Rockaway (Screengrab of vid by @TheeeUgly)

“They said Far Rock was gonna riot, loot and violate. Look at this, nothing but unity and peaceful protest in our hood,” Twitter user @TheTruthSerg_ said of the march and rally in Far Rockaway on Tuesday.

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Whitestone (Twitter user @sassyveeee)

In Whitestone on Monday, a white man, driving by a BLM protest on the Cross Island Parkway overpass on Clintonville Street, yelled out, “Wrong neighborhood, bitch.” A protester yelled back at him, “Fuck you!” He pulled over, got out of his car and chased one of the protesters with a bizarre-looking object, then threatened the others. He was later arrested, it was reported. A video of the scene was captured on social media.

It was reported more than 100 people protested on the corners of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing Tuesday night. One unexplained video on Twitter shows a whole bunch of cops attacking someone.

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Seen in this photo left to right: State Sen. Jessica Ramos, Borough President Melinda Katz, State Sen. John Liu, State Rep. Alicia Hyndman, City Council Member Donovan Richards and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng. (Screengrab of Twitter vid by QNS reporter Angélica M. Acevedo.

Yesterday afternoon, a march took off from Cunningham Park in Fresh Meadows to Borough Hall, where various officials such as City Council Member Donovan Richards spoke out. Richards, chair of the public safety committee, also spoke out at the rallies in Sunnyside and Far Rockaway and possibly others. He is running for borough president. At some point, the march passed by Sean Bell Way.

25 to Life For 36th Ave Murder

Two years ago today, a man was killed on 36th Avenue near 14th Street. 

Today, Judge Kenneth Holder sentenced Javyn McNish, now 21, from the Ravenswood Houses, to 25 years to life, for slaying Jerell Lewis, 20, from Queensbridge, at 4:10PM on December 2, 2017. 

On that day, McNish’s friend told him that he’d been in a fight with Lewis, accounts found. McNish then, is said to have chased Lewis into the street near the Ravenswood Houses. He then shot at Lewis three times, say reports, hitting him in the chest, torso and the arm or hand. A bullet to the spinal chord is said to have paralyzed Lewis. McNish is said to have then pistol-whipped Lewis, knocking out two of his teeth. Lewis died later at Mount Sinai Hospital. 

McNish, seen on surveillance video, was later found in an apartment with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. He was charged two days after the death with murder and criminal possession of a weapon.  Continue reading “25 to Life For 36th Ave Murder”

Patch: Queensbridge didn’t know about Bernie rally

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From IG: BernieSanders

“Seemed to be a pretty white rally,” Bishop Mitchell Taylor told Patch

Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders held a rally, boosted by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, at Queensbridge Park last Saturday without giving Queensbridge residents much advance notice, the outlet reported yesterday. The campaign said it handed out flyers at Queensbridge the Friday before and reached out to Tenants Association President April Simpson “as soon as they got her contact information.”

There were no flyers put up in the buildings. A tenants meeting scheduled for the same time as the rally went on as planned. Sanders had announced a rally in “Queens” during the last primary debate but didn’t specify the location, missing an opportunity to fill in QB residents. 

As I tweeted last week, if the rally were in AOC’s district, it could have been in Corona Park. Queensbridge, which Amazon opponents had inserted into the battle over the corporate headquarters debate, served as a relevant backdrop. “Let’s acknowledge the ground that we are on, which is the ground zero for the fight for public housing, and fully funded, dignified housing in the United States of America,” AOC said at the rally. 

Re Patch 

Bernie and AOC are coming to Queensbridge Park

Senator Bernie Sanders, when asked last night at the Democratic Primary debate about his recent heart attack, announced he would be holding a rally in Queens this weekend. I wondered where, exactly.

The democratic socialist candidate, along with our neighboring local congress member, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, will be rallying at Queensbridge Park on Saturday. AOC, unsurprisingly will endorse the senator. 

….Also, it might go without saying there are some obvious, I think, implications here about holding a rally at Queensbridge, which played out as a major factor in the local battles against the Amazon deal. 

Ravenswood-Dutch Kills top Queens in falling real estate prices

A RealtyHop analysis found that the Ravenswood-Dutch Kills area led Queens in falling median percentage real estate prices in June.

The area, identified as “Queensbridge-Ravenswood-Long Island City,” – the map shows Ravenswood, QB and Dutch Kills below 36th Ave over to Northern Boulevard – saw a median percentage price drop of 10.6% (-$133,475). What, no one wants to live here anymore?

Just behind us is East Elmhurst, followed by the Hammels-Arverne-Edgemere part of the Rockaways, followed by Jamaica, according to a closer read by Queens Courier.

We came in four citywide for top five highest median percentage price drops, sharing a category with four Bronx neighborhoods, and made the top five list for neighborhoods with highest median dollar price drops, at number two just behind SoHo-Tribeca-Civic Center-Little Italy. Yea, check us out.

H/T Queens Courier

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”

QB bust and other crime news

Police arrested 22 people at the Queensbridge Houses  on Wednesday. The NYPD recovered four firearms along with marijuana, heroin and crack. The bust comes after an 11 month sting called “Operation: the Bridge is Over,” the name of an anti-QB hip-hop diss track from 1987. 

In early 2017 Queensbridge celebrated a straight year with no shootings. That streak was disrupted in May of last year. There have been five shootings in the vicinity, one fatal, since January, sparking the investigation. Also, here’s “The Bridge…” and other crime notes in Astoria and LIC below… Continue reading “QB bust and other crime news”

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.

Rezonings for new apartment buildings on 21st Street, 35th Ave get heard out

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Jaclyn Calcagno Scarinci, attorney representing Ravi Management details the Ravenswood corner rezoning plan to CB1.

At a public hearing for a couple of rezoning proposals for potential apartment buildings in lower-west Astoria and Long Island City Thursday, the question seemed to become how new, not-so small developments with mostly market-rate housing will lend to the future of the neighborhood.

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Modified Google Maps screenshot-map of the proposed re-zonings.

Community Board 1 held the hearing at the NYCHA Ravenswood Houses, between the two sites of interest. One proposal is for rezoning 11-14 35th Avenue at the corner of 12th Street from commercial to mixed-use so that United Crane and Rigging would be replaced by an eight-story building with 74 residential units and retail at the base. (For some perspective, the Ravenswood Houses across 12th Street are six stories tall.) In the other, Variety Boys and Girls Club is proposing to replace its existing building at 21-12 30th Road along 21st Street with a larger club space attached to a 14 story apartment building. The apartment building, owned by a yet-to-be-identified developer, would pay for the club’s expansion. Continue reading “Rezonings for new apartment buildings on 21st Street, 35th Ave get heard out”