RISING AROUND QUEENS: Update on development projects

By Queens Courier Staff |

The new vision for Queens takes some time.
New York City’s long and oftentimes exhaustive land use and development process has left many Queens projects either stalled or waiting for review by the city’s bureaucracy.
Most of the projects in this compilation are ongoing and in the nascent stages of construction or design. Here are some of the most recent developments:


The city issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) in early May for the first phase of its Willets Point Redevelopment plan.
Plans for the 12.7 acre plot of land are a transformation into a mixed-use facility boasting of 680,000 square feet of retail space, around 400 housing units, a hotel and two acres of open space and parking, according to the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).
Last summer, 29 developers expressed interest for phase one of the project and the RFP was targeted to that select group. Respondents to the RFP will also have to submit proposals for the redevelopment of the entire 62-acre site that was split up into multiple phases.
The NYCEDC expects the first phase of the project, located adjacent to Citi Field, will create 1,800 permanent jobs and 4,600 construction jobs.
The 62-acre site lacks basic infrastructure and is highly contaminated. Seth Pinsky, president of the NYCEDC, expects that the city will begin work on those infrastructure improvements by the end of this year.
The city received some push back from local businesses in the redevelopment area and pursued to gain some of the land through eminent domain. While it owns 90 percent of land in the area, all of the businesses in the area will need to relocate. Nine private property owners still remain in the area. The NYCEDC needs to remove all the contaminated soil at the site. If local businesses are still in place, it cannot go ahead with its plans to bring in new soil to remediate the site, according to Pinsky.
The eminent domain process is still ongoing and is currently being handled in the courts.
But the NYCEDC overcame a big hurdle when it received approval for a future phase of the redevelopment project. The city received approval from the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) and Federal Highway Administration (FHA) for a proposed plan for ramps off the Van Wyck Expressway.
“Receiving this approval allows us to overcome a number of procedural hurdles that have threatened to delay this important, job-creating project,” said an NYCEDC spokesperson. “Willets Point is now one step closer to becoming a center of economic growth and the site of an historic environmental clean-up.”
Opponents of the redevelopment have criticized the city for breaking a promise they made with property owners last summer to not condemn any land until it received federal and state approval for the proposed ramps off the Van Wyck.

Construction is still under way at Queens Plaza. The pedestrian and bicycle improvement project has plans for new sidewalks, curbs, plantings and improved lighting. The 1.5 acre open space from Queens Plaza North to Queens Plaza South, from Northern Boulevard/Queens Plaza East to 21st Street will transform the area with new sidewalks, benches, a pedestrian walkway and bikeway. According to the NYCEDC, the first phase is funded by $37.7 million in federal funds and $6.6 million in city capital funds. Phase two of the project will look to implement the same improvements from 21st Street to the East River at Vernon Boulevard. Once the site of a commuter parking lot, the plaza is located in the Long Island City (LIC) business district and was rezoned for mixed-use development to include affordable office space, according to the NYCEDC.
The city continues to work on construction for the 30-acre waterfront development plan. As of June, the NYCEDC continued with infrastructure improvements at the site bounded by 50th Avenue, Second Street, Newtown Creek and the East River. Construction workers installed new sanitary and storm sewers, water mains, curbs, roadways and sidewalks. The city expects work on a proposed 10-acre waterfront park to begin sometime this summer, according to the NYCEDC. The park will include a playground, dog run and open space for recreational activities. The Hunter’s Point South project is a mixed-use, middle-income housing development plan on the waterfront that will include up to 5,000 housing units. The first phase of the project includes two mixed-use buildings with more than 900 housing units and about 20,000 square feet of retail space. Phipps Houses, Related Companies and Monadnock Construction were selected to complete this phase of the project. Construction is expected to be complete by 2014, according to the NYCEDC. The housing units are part of Mayor Bloomberg’s $7.5 billion New Housing Marketplace Plan for 165,000 affordable housing units, according to the NYCEDC.

Construction for the first phase of Two Gotham Center in Long Island City (LIC) is complete, according to a spokesperson from the NYCEDC. The project is part of a 3.5-million-square-foot, mixed-use development in LIC.
Replacing the Queens Plaza Municipal Parking Garage, the 21-story tower will house the City’s Health Department. Two Gotham Center aims to increase the Health Departments operational efficiency in an enhanced work environment by bringing together units currently scattered in various parts of the city.
The project, worth $316 million is 662,000 square feet including approximately 9,400 square feet of ground-floor retail space located at the corner of Queens Plaza and 28th Street. The project will also create 1,400 construction jobs. The agency intends to shift all non-field-based employees into the facility by the end of 2011.
The tower was designed by Moed De Armas and Shannon and will include green building technology. Development team members are Gensler, architect of record, Bovis Lend Lease, construction manager.

The three projects in works for the Downtown Jamaica plan are all either in construction or in design, according to the NYCEDC.
The Inter-modal Enhancements/Atlantic Avenue Extension (IMAX) will increase riders accessibility on Air Train and Long Island Railroad and New York City Transit, through three infrastructure improvements that will create new gateways to Downtown Jamaica. The IMAX projects are composed of city, state and federal investments of $100 million will create 30 permanent jobs and 580 construction jobs.
The three projects Atlantic Avenue Extension, the Sutphin Underpass and the Station Plaza will create new streetscapes for 10 blocks in Downtown Jamaica or near the AirTrain/LIRR terminal.
The Sutphin Underpass – in construction – will include 5,500 square feet of new retail space for users with goods and services.
The Atlantic Avenue project is in design, but plans include an extensions of the street to meet 95th Avenue and create one-way streets on both 94th and 95th avenues to ease traffic from the station area. The construction is expected to begin in 2011.
The Station Plaza project, also in design, aims to ease congestion on Archer Avenue during peak hours through new bus loading/off-loading lanes, realigned and wider sidewalks and newly created public plazas (i.e. bus shelters and retail kiosks) for pedestrians. The groundbreaking is expected in 2012.


Progress is ongoing at Flushing Commons. The project is in its design phases, according to the NYCEDC.
Last summer, the project received approval from the New York City Planning Commission and went through the Uniform Land-Use Review Procedure (ULURP).
A 5.5 acre municipal parking lot will be transformed into new residential and economic opportunities for the city. The proposed $850 million Flushing Commons project includes a 1.5 acre town square of an open space with a fountain plaza, up to 620 residential units, up to 36,000 square feet of community facility space, parking for 1,600 cars at low rates and a 62,000 square-foot YMCA facility to name a few.
The development of Flushing Commons is expected to generate more than 2,600 construction jobs and 1,900 permanent jobs for residents within the local community with. Low impact development techniques and green building technologies will be used in the facility’s development. Flushing Commons is part of The Rockefeller Development Corporation of Manhattan and TDC Development and Construction Corporation, a local Flushing developer.