Tag Archives: EDC

LIC loses some free Wi-Fi hotspots amid bankruptcy scandal


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

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Long Island City has lost some of its connection.

Spain-based Wi-Fi provider GOWEX, which was announced last year as one of the organizations that would help bring free Wi-Fi access throughout the city, has filed bankruptcy and had “dozens” of its hotspots go offline, according to the New York Post.

Some of the hotspots include areas in Long Island City, the Bronx and Staten Island, the Post said.

According to the Post, analysts at Gotham City Research posted in a July 1 report that GOWEX had lied about the size of its contract with the city’s Economic Development Corporation, claiming it had 100,00 hotspots throughout the world, when it actually had about 5,000.

Founder and CEO of GOWEX, Jenaro Garcia resigned after he admitted he inflated the revenues, according to the Chicago Tribune.

When it was announced last year, GOWEX was expected to help bring free Wi-Fi access to the Long Island City area with the network being installed along the Vernon Boulevard, Jackson Avenue and Queens Plaza commercial and retail corridors.

GOWEX had a contract with the EDC worth $245,000 and it has paid the company about $185,000 so far, according to published reports. The contract with GOWEX runs through September 2016.

 

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Rockaway Ferry service extended to May


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

File photo

Residents on the peninsula no longer will experience the dreaded end of the Rockaway Ferry. The water service has been extended until May.

“While the Rockaway Ferry service began as an emergency measure, serving residents after Hurricane Sandy devastated other public transit options, it has since proved to be a valuable part of the city’s transportation infrastructure,” said Kyle Kimball, NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) president.

The ferries, which connect Beach 108th Street, the Brooklyn Army Terminal and Lower Manhattan, were slated to end Jan. 31, but will continue throughout the next several months with an option to extend further until August.

However, instead of $2 one-way tickets, the price to ride will be $3.50.

The EDC will additionally determine the viability of long-term service and identify a ferry operator.

Next month, the EDC will issue a Request for Proposals to make this determination, which will monitor ridership during the extension and show whether an additional extension to August is necessary.

This is the fourth extension of the ferry since its initial launch in November 2012, and since then it has carried more than 200,000 passengers.

“We are committed to the Rockaways’ recovery. From accelerating rebuilding programs to today’s ferry extension, we are going to keep our focus on communities hit hard by Sandy to ensure no one is left behind,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.

 

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$3.5M in payouts on table for Willets Point business owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

A pooled $3.5 million in payouts is on tap for some Willets Point business owners who agree to leave the Iron Triangle by the end of January.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) sent letters earlier this month to 90 auto shop owners in the Phase 1 area of the Willets Point development site, alerting them of the extra millions now on the table.

Shop owners who relocate by November 30 will be given a payout equal to one year’s rent, city officials said. Those who leave between December and the end of January will receive a payment equal to six month’s rent.

Under the payment plan, if a business owner who currently pays the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development $2,000 a month in rent leaves by the end of November, he or she would get $24,000.

The new pooled funds are on a first-come, first-serve basis, city officials said, and are added onto the $9 million in relocation aid already offered.

The EDC, which has said the entire Phase 1 area must be vacated before environmental remediation can begin, has been urging shop owners to relocate since this February.

Only one has left the Phase 1 site so far, an EDC spokesperson said, but two others have struck relocation deals and others are in “serious negotiation.”

Plans for the larger $3 billion project to redevelop Willets Point include cleaning up 23 acres of contaminated land and eventually constructing housing units and a mega mall near Citi Field.

“I think we’re getting pushed out,” said Tommy Cohen, who owns ACDC Scrap Metal. “We don’t have a choice.”

Willets Point United said on its website the deal is “fool’s gold and is little more than a bus ticket out of town for these immigrant Hispanic business owners.”

About 120 people attended a city-hosted informational meeting in Corona last week to discuss the new payouts and additional free services.

Representatives were available at booths to talk about relocations, business loans, job and education training.

There are still ongoing talks between the city, developers and Willets Point shops, said Councilmember Julissa Ferreras, who represents the area. These include possibly relocating the affected businesses as a group.

 

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Flood relief may be on way for Springfield Gardens


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

Officials are hoping that relief is on the way for Springfield Gardens residents, who have long suffered from the deluge of downpours.

On Tuesday, October 16, city and local officials broke ground on the fourth phase of a project to upgrade sewer and water infrastructure in the southeast Queens community.

“For years, heavy rain in Springfield Gardens meant flooded roads, damaged homes and thousands of dollars in repairs for residents,” said City Councilmember James Sanders, an advocate for the project. “With this … neighborhood upgrade under way, relief is coming soon for Springfield homeowners who have been under assault from Mother Nature for far too long.”

This most recent installment of repairs, totaling $69 million and funded by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Department of Transportation (DOT), is part of a larger $175 million project dedicated to improving Springfield Gardens storm management.

In this phase, the area bounded by South Conduit Avenue to the north; 149th Avenue to the south; 145th Road/146th Avenue/225th Street on the east; and Springfield Boulevard to the west will receive roughly 2.8 miles of new sewer lines, nearly 3 miles of water mains, and 84 catch basins, along with new streets and sidewalks.

“Low-lying streets in Springfield Gardens will get a lift with completely reconstructed streets and sidewalks, addressing the area’s flooding and making the neighborhood greener and more inviting,” said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.

Residents are overall pleased with the work being done.

Elizabeth Simms, who lives nearby in an area that was part of an earlier phase, has seen a significant improvement in flooding around her home.

“New drains, new sewers, remaking the street has worked great. Before it was a problem, but now everything goes right down and the street is clean,” she said.

Also part of the project is the creation of a Bluebelt, a wetland that both stores and treats water runoff. This will allow stormwater to be collected in the new catch basins, and discharged into wetland systems where the water will be naturally filtered. The wetlands will store the water, allow any solids or debris to settle and excess nutrients to be absorbed by vegetation. The filtered water will then be discharged into the nearby Springfield Lake and existing streams into Jamaica Bay.

Dredging for the project is set to begin in the spring, and will be managed by the City’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC). Completion is estimated for 2014.

 

Start-ups flock to Queens


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Tech start-up companies, escaping steep Manhattan rents and expanding Queens-born businesses, are setting up shop in Long Island City.

“It has a pioneering and innovative spirit,” said Coalition for Queens founder Jukay Hsu of the neighborhood’s energy.

The creator of the non-profit organization, responsible for fostering the tech community in the borough through raising awareness and collaborating with entrepreneurs, said the area’s appeal lies in what’s been here all along: educated personnel and skilled designers.

According to Hsu, the city suffers a shortage of computer scientists, now offset by Queens College, which trains more students in computer sciences than any other school in the metropolitan area. Hsu also said Long Island City’s reputation as a design center attracts tech companies searching for the vital aesthetic element.

A representative from LIC company Plaxall lists the average office space rent at between $15 and $25 per square-foot. According to a representative from the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), current Manhattan rates for commercial spaces run around $59 per square-foot.

The Long Island City area is also regarded as a transportation hub, offering quick commutes to other business centers like Midtown Manhattan, Chelsea and the Financial District.

The Queens Tech Meetup, a monthly gathering hosted by the Coalition for Queens – brings together members from the technology community to collaborate in Long Island City.

While newer companies, such as Songza — an online music-listening service — are initiating and growing their businesses in Queens, major companies like Publicis, a worldwide public relations firm, are also migrating to Long Island City spaces.

“It’s about having existing companies grow and it’s about encouraging people to innovate,” said Hsu. “We want to help all these efforts and initiatives.”

Hsu claims the expansion of the technology sphere into Queens will affect not just the technology world, but industries including media and health care as well.

“We hope [the technology boom] can bring Queens and New York into the future,” he said.

Shapeways, a custom 3-D printing company based in Manhattan, is currently in the middle of lease negotiations, on its way to opening a factory in Long Island City. Director of marketing Carine Carmy said the massive space available and city-provided incentives drove Shapeways to move operations to Queens. The company’s distribution center is already located in Hunters Point and Carmy hopes the move will centralize business for its high concentration of east-coast based customers.

“We’ve been thinking about it,” said Carmy of the possibility of Shapeways’ 28th and Park headquarters migrating to LIC. “There are definitely benefits in having our offices more condensed.”

Elias Roman, Queens native and co-founder of Songza, said LIC has always been a top choice as the home base for his “music concierge” company, with proximity to Manhattan and community connectivity as just starting points.

“[Long Island City] has a great, fun start-upy vibe,” said Roman. “It’s exciting to see it grow while you’ve been growing … Theres no better place in the world to be than here.”

AG: Development Corporations lobbied illegally for projects


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Three city development corporations have admitted to illegally lobbying the City Council to win approval of their favored projects, including a much-contested plan to revamp Willets Point, the state attorney general said.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corporation (FWCLDC) — headed by former borough president Claire Shulman — and the Coney Island Development Corporation (CIDC) settled charges of attempting to influence legislation in connection with development projects in Willets Point in 2008 and Coney Island in 2009, according to a three-year investigation by Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The projects require City Council approvals pursuant to the state’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). But local development corporations (LDCs) are barred by statute from influencing legislation.

“These local development corporations flouted the law by lobbying elected officials, both directly and through third parties,” Schneiderman said.

According to probe findings, the three agencies attempted to create the appearance of independent grassroots support for the projects by concealing their participation in community organizing efforts. This included ghostwriting letters and op-eds and preparing testimony for unaffiliated community members, Schneiderman said.

The EDC — the city’s economic development arm — also played a behind-the-scenes role in the lobbying activities of the other LDCs, he said.

The nonprofit organizations will now have to reform their practices to comply with the law and end lobbying for development projects. They will also have to comply with mandatory training, and the EDC will have to publicaly disclose any funding provided to other LDCs.

The EDC intends to restructure, according to spokesperson Jennifer Friedberg, and cease to be considered an LDC. Doing so, she said, would allow the company to legally influence legislation and “operate freely in areas that are necessary and appropriate for it to achieve its economic development mission.”

The agency, which formerly claimed to not have known a “clear definition” of influencing legislation, will not be subjected to fines or penalties as part of the settlement.

Robert Bishop, a lawyer representing FWCLDC, said the group also plans to comply with the new agreement.

“The LDC is a great organization that does great things, and we will continue to do great things,” he said.

Shulman declined to comment.

Meanwhile, the mild rebuke from the state is drawing heat from the city comptroller, who said the restructuring alone is insufficient and pushed for organization officials to be held accountable.

“While these revelations of illegal lobbying are alarming, we cannot say that they come as a surprise,” said Comptroller John Liu. “For some time, this mayor has been using the EDC to create ‘astroturf’ groups to support his agenda, reward allies and dole out welfare to wealthy corporations.”

Willets Point United members said the investigation confirms their original suspicions that the entire land use review process was based on fraudulent and illegal behavior. They urged the city to end all recent and future actions regarding the area’s development.

“Our properties were put at risk by an illegal scheme, and we were forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to protect our constitutionally protected rights against a municipality and its front group engaged in activities that were rife with fraud,” the group said in a statement.

Creedmoor won’t be site of college campus


| smosco@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Bob Doda The Creedmoor site could prove to provide an economic boost for the surrounding community.

A group looking to repurpose the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center site in Queens Village as an applied sciences and engineering college campus received an “incomplete” from the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC).

Jim Trent, vice president of the Bellerose Business District Development Corporation, proposed that Creedmoor be added to the list of possible sites for a college in an effort to revive the local economy, but a meeting with the EDC revealed to Trent that school’s out for Creedmoor.

“They wanted to get this thing moving quickly, and the best way to do that is to offer sites the city already owned,” said Trent, who is also the treasurer of the Queens Civic Congress. “Right now we are going to regroup and come up with the kind of tenant that would be appropriate and would facilitate an economic spill off to the surrounding community.”

The EDC issued a request for proposal (RFP) for an applied sciences and engineering campus in July and is looking to attract universities from around the country to build a campus in the New York City area. More than two dozen schools have responded to the RFP, with Cornell and Stanford said to be two of the better known schools to apply.

Trent said that the EDC was very courteous and he appreciated that they were given ample time to make a presentation.

The sites currently being considered are sites on Governor’s Island, Roosevelt Island and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. In addition to these sites, the EDC said that respondents are able to propose private sites as well and that the deadline for such proposals is October 28.

“In addition to the three city-owned sites that have been offered through the RFP process, respondents are able to propose private sites,” said a spokesperson for the EDC. “Once all the proposals come in later this month we intend to review them carefully, with selection ultimately based on the proposal that yields the greatest benefit to the people and businesses of the city for the lowest commitment of city resources.”

Trent is still hopeful that Creedmoor has a chance to house a campus at some point and said that the high number of universities that submitted RFPs makes him think that this is not over.

“If 27 universities have shown interest in coming to New York City, are you really going to tell 26 that they can’t?” he said. “New York is a great college city. And really, anywhere in Queens would be great for Queens.”

Currently, the Creedmoor property houses a number of non-profit organizations, including SNAP of Eastern Queens, the Bernard Fineson Center, and the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center, which Trent said do not stimulate Bellerose’s economy.

“A college could give us 300 professors who might live, shop and eat in the area; 2,000 students who would spend money here,” he said. “More mental health facilities and non-profits do not have economic spill off into the neighboring communities. It’s up to us to find the right tenant for this property.”