Tag Archives: New York City Economic Development Corporation

‘Don’t sell out’: Brooklyn holdouts’ message to Willets Point owners


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

The battle against the behemoth billion dollar Barclays Center has long been lost for some Brooklynites, but leading opponents of the project are hoping the war waged against the city will be won in Willets Point.

“Fight to the bitter end,” said Donald O’Finn, one of 14 Brooklyn plaintiffs that took state developers to court in 2009. “These are really important fights. We lost our battle, but the war is not done.”

The Barclays Center — Brooklyn’s new 675,000-square-foot sports arena and home to the Nets — opened on Friday, September 21, but only after a decade of debates by community activists who opposed the project and multiple lawsuits filed by landowners fighting to keep their properties.

Daniel Goldstein, co-founder of “Develop Don’t Destroy Brooklyn” (DDDB), a volunteer-run community coalition, said he fought against developer Bruce Ratner of Forest City Ratner, for seven years in federal and state court until eminent domain was used to condemn the entire 22-acre site, including 171 units of housing and 35 businesses, in 2009.

O’Finn, co-owner of Freddy’s Bar — which received a “Ratner payout” to vacate — recalled the seven years spent aggressively fighting legal battles as “sad,” in light of the arena’s grand ribbon-cutting last week.

“It seemed wrong the way things were happening, with the misuse of Eminent Domain, how things were sort of just taken by people who have power and wealth just because they want to,” he said. “It was just so wrong.”

Meanwhile, a similar battle has been brewing over in the next borough.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced in June that he had selected the Wilpons of the Mets, Sterling Equities and Related Companies to develop 23 acres of land in Willets Point into a major hub for retail, hotels, entertainment and dining.

But before “environmental remediation” can begin, the entire area — home to scores of long-established auto repair shops near Citi Field — must first be vacated, according to Benjamin Branham, a spokesperson for the city’s Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC).

Twenty-seven property-owning entities in the “Phase 1” area have reached deals with the city for an undisclosed amount, while four have refused to sell, Branham said. They are Janice Serrone, Ralph Paterno, George Romano and Tony Crozzoli — none of whom returned calls for comment.

The city rescinded its first bid to acquire the “Phase 1” neighborhood using Eminent Domain in May. Branham said the city would only go back to using it “as a last resort.”

“It remains our strong preference to reach negotiated agreements with these remaining owners, and we’re optimistic that we can achieve this,” he said.

O’Finn, who urged remaining residents in Willets Point not to sell out, said the key to securing victory is to ignite the community.

“You need to get people to listen,” he said. “If you can find a way to get people to actually hear you — that would be my advice, especially in New York, where everything is so busy and fast. I really hope at some point we can win this war.”

Goldstein, however, said the land grab in Willets Point is only similar to what happened in Brooklyn in one way.

“They’re getting screwed just like we are,” he said.

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.”

Development up throughout Queens


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

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Temperatures are not the only thing that’s been skyrocketing this summer.

Development in Queens has been booming in the borough, with announcements of major projects, the near-completion of others, and talks of even more to come.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced on June 14 the long-awaited, finalized plans for a Willets Point facelift that is expected to bring more than 12,000 union construction jobs and 7,000 permanent jobs.

The project includes a 200-room hotel and 30,000-square-feet of retail space on what is now the Iron Triangle, a 20-acre convertible recreational area, and a 200-store shopping area on what is currently the west parking lot of Citi Field.

Roughly $3 billion in private investment will go into this project, as well as $100 million in city capital that will go toward demolition and permanent improvements. In turn, the overhaul of the area is expected to bring an estimated $4.2 billion in economic activity over the next 30 years.

It was announced the same day that the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, home to the U.S. Open, will undergo its own expansions and renovations.

The Louis Armstrong Stadium, which currently holds about 10,000 fans, will be replaced — in the same spot — with an updated stadium that will hold 15,000 fans and include administrative and broadcast spaces.

The Grandstand Stadium will be built in the southwest corner of the center, holding some 8,000 spectators.

The renovations, which are expected to begin in the fall of 2013, are expected to bring an extra 10,000 tennis fans to the center per day during the U.S. Open.

Following the announcements for the Tennis Center, Borough President Helen Marshall said this was a step forward for both Queens and the Tennis Center, which employs 6,000 with seasonal jobs, according to the U.S. Tennis Association (USTA).

Marshall said that this would further the already robust revenue the National Championship brings to Queens.

“For generations the borough of Queens has played host to the U.S. Open, a world class sporting event and a major economic catalyst for our city,” she said. “I look forward to working with the USTA to ensure that the new additions to the National Tennis Center bring the maximum benefit to the people of the borough of Queens.”

Sixty acres of downtown Flushing waterfront would also be revitalized as part of the state’s Department of State Brownfield Opportunity Areas program.

The proram consists of mixed use projects over the next 10 years, including recreational, commercial, entertainment and residential portions.

And sailing west, another waterfront in Queens might get a revamp of its own.

The Hallets Point project could break ground as early as the fall of 2013, the Daily News reported. The process would reshape seven acres of Astoria waterfront and see around 2,200 housing units throughout seven towers, along with a supermarket and a park along the East River.

Lincoln Equities Group, the developer of the project, has agreed to set aside 20 percent of the units for affordable housing aimed at seniors, a project official told the Daily News. The site will be located close to the Astoria Houses, a public housing complex.

The Briarwood Organization is currently adding to its plaza on Bell Boulevard that will be home to business and medical offices. The site, located at 36-29 Bell Boulevard, is the most recent of several structures the century-old development company has built on Bell Boulevard. The building is expected to open September 2013, Briarwood partners said.

To the south, a new center that looks to spark development, creativity and understanding is in its last stages of completion.

A new center for New York Families of Austic Children is expected to open this September, said NYFAC CEO Andrew Baumann. The center will be home to programs ranging from drama to expression for children and adults with autism, Baumann said, along with support groups and educational programs for parents and family members.

The new center will be at 164-14 Cross Bay Boulevard in Howard Beach.

And as ground is being broken or the final cornerstone is laid, plans for even further development in the borough are still in the works.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation has opened four Requests For Proposals (RFPs) throughout the city — one of which is located in College Point.

The 40,000-square-foot rectangular lot is in the northeast portion of the area’s Corporate Park, which currently houses more than 200 corporations employing approximately 6,000 employees.

And in recent weeks there have been talks of bringing a new Major League Soccer (MLS) Stadium — and new team — to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The stadium, it has been reported, would sit some 20,000 to 25,000 soccer fans in one of the borough’s largest parks. Assemblymember Francisco Moya said the project would have multiple benefits for the borough, both economically and culturally.

The potential project — still in its earliest stages, according to the assemblymember — would be privately financed, not affecting taxpayers. As part of any deal, Moya said, the developer would renovate the several soccer fields in the park now.

Moya also noted the large soccer culture not just in Queens, but in the park. The devout FC Barcelona fan said he learned the game in Flushing Meadows as a child and has played there since.

“That’s where my dad took me to play,” he said. “That’s where I played my whole life.”

 

Rockaway Courthouse to be revitalized


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The former Rockaway Courthouse — saved from its longtime sentence of stagnancy — has been given a second life.

The limestone and marble courthouse, located at 90-01 Beach Channel Drive, was originally constructed in 1932. But for the last 20 years, the building has remained vacant.

Now, the city is seeking interested buyers to reactivate and redevelop the 80-year-old historic structure.

“[This] will help both the city and the community implement a coordinated strategic plan for economic development for this critical part of Queens,” said Seth Pinsky, president of New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC), which issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) on January 24. “We look forward to learning what creative New Yorkers have in mind for the former courthouse in the coming weeks and months.”

According to local leaders, the current site — which includes approximately 24,000-square-feet and access to mass transportation — holds the key to stimulating future economic growth and residential life.

“This great community resource has been on my radar for several years,” said Borough President Helen Marshall. “This RFEI will set the stage for a real reuse plan of this former courthouse. It will become the latest addition to the continuing Rockaway renaissance that has brought new housing, recreational and retail development in recent years.”

Assemblymember Phillip Goldfeder said the reactivation will also remove a longstanding “blight on the community.”

“For too long we’ve allowed it to sit vacant, hurting the community,” Goldfeder said. “Any redevelopment proposals are very welcomed. In Rockaway, we’re very excited about seeing something in that facility, for it to finally have some use.”

According to Jonathan Gaska, district manager of Community Board 14, one developer — Uri Kaufman of the Harmony Group — had already expressed interest even before the RFEI was issued to transform the courthouse into a surgical center.

“The board had a very favorable response to this proposal,” Gaska said. “We have always seen the Rockaway Courthouse as a monument to city neglect. It was once was a beautiful building, and we’re pleased that the city is moving to try and find someone to renovate and occupy it. We’re waiting to see if any other proposals come in, and we’ll see what happens.”

Kaufman could not be reached as of press time.

What’s new in Long Island City


| smosco@queenscourier.com

2 HUNTERS POINT RENDERw

No matter what time of year it is and what holiday is upon us, new developments in the neighborhood never cease. New restaurants, businesses, praise and that Hunters Point South project continue to move forth.

Here’s just a few items to come through recently:
Chocomize, a maker of chocolate bars that can be customized with over 100 topping options, recently relocated to LIC. After outgrowing their second space, they came to LIC to expand.

Rockrose Development Corporation recently announced that they will construct a 42-story, 709 unit residential rental building at 43-10 Crescent Street. Linc LIC, the first of a four building projects, will be completed in 2013.

The current owner of the Citibank Tower at One Court Square will sell the property to Waterbridge Capital. The sale price has been estimated to be $500 million.

Three new restaurants have opened in LIC in the last few weeks. Bear, featuring Eastern European influenced dishes with farm-to-table ingredients, is located at 12-14 31st Avenue.

Skinny’s Cantina, 47-05 Center Boulevard, is now serving Mexican dishes and cocktails and Alobar, which boasts craft beers and modern comfort food with an emphasis on seasonal and local ingredients, is located at 46-42 Vernon Boulevard.

LIC-based Quadlogic Controls Corp is the winner of the Wall Street Journal “Small Business, Big Innovation” award for its new product that attacks the environmentally unfriendly, costly and growing problem of electricity theft in various international markets.

Developments are still underway at Hunters Point South. The City of New York continues work on the Hunter’s Point South project, a waterfront development on a 30‐acre parcel of land in LIC that is bounded by 50th Avenue, 2nd Street, Newtown Creek and the East River. As part of the project, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) continues infrastructure installation (sanitary and storm sewers, water mains, roadways, curbs, and sidewalks). Construction of a 10‐acre waterfront park will start this month. It will include a playground, dog run, and large “green” that will serve as a place for active recreation as well as passive uses.

INFRASTRUCTURE CONSTRUCTION
Work Initiated/Completed During October
• Continuation of dewatering to allow for ongoing subsurface construction
• Backfilling of former 2nd Street water tunnel, south of 50th Avenue
• Continuation of installation of sanitary sewer system:
• 2nd Street, 50th Avenue to south of Borden Avenue
• Installation of storm sewer system
• 2nd Street, Borden Avenue south toward 54th Avenue
• Construction of chambers for 48” and 42” Combined Sewer Outfall (CSO) system at East River and upland chambers
• Continuation of relocation of existing/installation of new Con Edison utility structures (primarily west side of 2nd Street and north side of Borden Avenue, east of 2nd Street).
- Courtesy of the NYCEDC

‘Another step closer to the new Willets Point’


| smosco@queenscourier.com

The chop shop wasteland that is Willets Point continues to inch toward a rebirth.

According to published reports, major developers and the owners of the New York Mets are among the firms that submitted Requests for Proposal (RFP) for the right to develop the site adjacent to Citi Field in Flushing.

Sterling Equities, which is controlled by Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, teamed up with The Related Companies and submitted a proposal to develop phase one of the project, which covers 12.75 acres. Other bidders include Flushing-based TDC Development and Silverstein Properties – the latter of which is building three towers at the World Trade Center site.

Though the firms would not comment on the proposals, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYC EDC) said that it has received numerous proposals and that each one will get a fair review and equal consideration.

“After receiving numerous responses for the first phase of development, we are another step closer to the new Willets Point,” said EDC spokesperson Jennifer Friedberg. “This project will create thousands of jobs and allow an environmentally contaminated area to become a model center for economic growth for Queens and New York City. We are eager to continue examining the proposals and to create the blueprint for the future of Willets Point.”

The effort to redevelop Willets Point – dubbed “The Iron Triangle” – has been a long and arduous process and requires several steps before a shovel can be put in the ground. The site requires environmental remediation, infrastructure upgrades and land acquisition leading up to the project, which the city has split into three phases, covering 61.4 acres and approximately nine million square feet of development.

While the city controls a majority of the land, the remainder might have to be scooped up by Eminent Domain. The first phase, which includes housing and retail, is projected to be completed by 2016 and the entire Willets Point project is scheduled to be finished by 2022.