Tag Archives: queens plaza

LIC Clock Tower and vacant site sell for $77M


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Those looking to preserve the Long Island City Clock Tower may be running out of time.

Queens Plaza Park Development LLC bought the tower, which was the former Bank of Manhattan building, and an adjoining vacant site for a combined $77 million, according to property records filed with the city on Saturday.

Community members are hoping to landmark the building on 29-27 Queens Plaza North to avoid its development, according to recently published reports, after LIC Clock Tower LLC bought the tower in May for $15 million, city records show.

In just a few months, the price of the tower doubled and sold for $30.9 million. The buyer also purchased the vacant land at 29-37 41st Ave. for $46.3 million.

The vacant site has more than 205,000 buildable square feet. Queens-based developer Steve Cheung purchased the vacant site for $8 million in 2011, city records show, and last year he filed with the Department of Buildings for a 30-story residential tower with 242 units at the vacant site.

Plans for the Clock Tower site have yet to be filed with the Buildings Department.

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Real estate roundup: Property Markets Group receives $130M for planned LIC rental tower


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Property Markets Group 

Property Markets Group gets $130M financing for LIC tower

“Kevin Maloney’s Property Markets Group has locked down more than $130 million in construction financing for its planned 44-story rental tower in Long Island City, property records filed with the city today show.” Read more [The Real Deal]

New sushi restaurant to open on Vernon

“A new sushi restaurant is opening on Vernon Blvd. The restaurant will be located at 46-44 Vernon Blvd between Alobar and  Petey’s Burger.” Read more [LIC Post]

Homeless shelter sparks heated debate at Police Precinct meeting

“The Westway Motor Inn, which was converted into a full-time homeless shelter in July, was at the center of some heated discussion at this month’s 114th Police Precinct meeting on Tuesday. Several residents claimed that there had been an uptick in crime near the 71-11 Astoria Blvd. shelter and that the quality of life for nearby residents is on the decline.” Read more [Astoria Post] 

Report: LIC land prices nearly hit $300 per buildable square foot


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Chart courtesy of Modern Spaces

Soaring land prices in Long Island City are hitting record highs for the neighborhood, according to the Moderns Spaces 3Q report released Thursday.

The price per buildable square in LIC jumped to an unheard of $250-$300 in this past quarter for some properties, the report said. The average land prices are above $200 in prime areas.

The price surge is mainly due to the demand for bigger projects aimed at larger family-size apartments, according to the report.

“The properties that are being acquired at those price points will most likely all be condos as they don’t make financial sense as a rental product with that high of a land base,” the report said. “But as condo prices rise in Manhattan and in Brooklyn, it’s naturally going to drive the buyer who is getting priced out of the areas to Long Island City or Queens as a whole.”

Meanwhile, for commercial and investment properties, the report found that in south Long Island City — areas near the waterfront, Hunter’s Point, Court Square, and Queens Plaza — land values eclipsed an average of more than $200 per buildable square foot and some properties have hit prices almost as high as $300.

But Modern Spaces predicts this trend will not continue.

“Despite demand being as strong as it has ever been, we predict the market will level in the $225 – $250 per buildable square foot range depending on exact location,” the report said.

Although land prices in Astoria have not hit an average of $200 per buildable square foot yet, not to be left too far behind, land prices in the neighborhood doubled in the past year with some properties eclipsing $200 per buildable square foot, according to the report.

 

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Vacant lots of prime buildable land in LIC sell for $44M


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of Google Maps

Three vacant lots in Long Island City near Queens Plaza that have potential for major development sold for $44 million, according to city records filed Thursday.

The seller is 42-26 28th St. LLC and the buyer is Eastern Star Development, city filings show.

No new plans or permits to build have been filed as yet for the lots, which are located on 42nd Road between 28th and 27th streets, but the property is surrounded by several tall buildings, such as the 22-story commercial glass building across the street at 42-01 28th St. and the 27-story residential tower adjacent to the lots at 42-25 27th St.

Also, directly north of the vacant lots, Heatherwood Communities is building a 58-story skyscraper at 42-12 28th St., which will become the tallest residential tower in the borough.

Excavation has mostly finished on that job, according to The Court Square Blog, and foundation work is beginning.  

The lots are zoned for mixed use so new developments could be a mixture of residential and commercial use.

The combined size of the property is 13,500 square feet. And a five-story building on the property was demolished in 2007, according to building records.

5-story development

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/ PropertyShark

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Op-ed: Make traffic safety a priority


| oped@queenscourier.com

COUNCILMEMBER COSTA CONSTANTINIDES

The 21st Street corridor between Queens Plaza and 20th Avenue has always been notorious for pedestrian fatalities.  It serves as a conduit between the Queensboro and Robert F. Kennedy Bridges, resulting in cars, trucks, and other heavy vehicles using the street to move quickly between these two points.

21st Street is also home to major senior and youth developments, such as I.S. 126, Long Island City High School, Bishop Iakovos Senior Housing, Vallone Family Senior Residence, Variety Boys & Girls Club, Queensview and North Queensview.  The increase in youth and senior populations, combined with increased commercial and cycling traffic, brings a need for improvement of traffic flow and an awareness of pedestrian safety.

According to data analyzed from the New York State Department of Transportation, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and the New York Police Department, traffic on this stretch of 21st Street caused seven deaths and left 102 people with injuries from 2002 to 2011.

And these statistics have not improved since then. That data also showed that Queens had the highest incidents of fatalities due to traffic accidents in the city in 2013.

It’s easy to see why these deaths and injuries are occurring.

Some intersections along 21st Street have no crosswalks or countdown clocks at all. Many pedestrian crosswalks are bumpy, obscured with gravel or cracked asphalt, or otherwise impossible to cross if you’re in a wheelchair or pushing a stroller.  Some crosswalks are impossible to cross because the lights are non-existent or don’t allow for enough time to make it to the other side of the street.

This is an issue that plagues our entire city.  According to a Daily News analysis of NYPD reports, pedestrian deaths from vehicles, especially the number of children, are increasing and we are on pace to outnumber 2013 deaths in 2014.  So far, there have been 11 pedestrian deaths in 2014 across the city.

We clearly need a solution.

Earlier this month, we held a press conference on 21st Street, calling on the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) for action. State Senator Michael Gianaris, Assemblymember Aravella Simotas, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, local advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Community Board 1,  parents from local schools, neighborhood community groups and senior centers, and other local activists joined. They agreed that real change is required to make 21st Street safer for everyone.

I therefore ask that the DOT conduct a traffic study of the 21st Street corridor, with the goal of creating a more safe and accessible street for all.

We need calming measures, such as countdown clocks and traffic lights for pedestrians, as well as well-maintained flattened crosswalks with no physical impediments for pedestrians with disabilities or children in strollers.

Our growth in population and small businesses is a boon to our local economy, but we need to make sure our infrastructure keeps up with increases in traffic. There is no excuse for us not to reduce the number of pedestrian fatalities by vehicles to zero.

Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Long Island City, Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair the City Council’s Sub-Committee on Libraries and sits on seven standing committees: Civil Service & Labor, Contracts, Cultural Affairs, Environmental Protection, Oversight & Investigations, Sanitation, and Transportation.

 

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Off-duty NYPD officer killed after car hits storefront near Queensboro Bridge


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

File photo

Updated 4:30 p.m.

An off-duty NYPD office was killed when her car smashed into an exit ramp of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge before striking a storefront in an accident-prone area of Long Island City.

Elisa Toro, 36, 10-year NYPD veteran who was assigned to Manhattan’s 17th Precinct, was heading off the bridge’s exit ramp around 1:50 a.m. Tuesday when she struck a guardrail, followed by a cement barrier, said police. The car then flipped onto its passenger side, hitting a vacant storefront on Queens Plaza South at Crescent Street.

Toro, a Bronx resident, was pronounced dead at the scene.

No one else was injured in the accident, said police.

The investigation is ongoing.

Kristina Shrestha said she saw the smashed up car when she came into work Tuesday morning at Panini Tozt Cafe located at 25-02 Queens Plaza South next door to the accident site.

“It was two years ago that the same thing happened in the same spot,” said Shrestha, who works as a cashier at the cafe. “I don’t know what’s wrong with the road.”

Following Tuesday’s accident, State Senator Michael Gianaris is calling for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to make greater traffic safety efforts at Queens Plaza South.

Gianaris asked the DOT to improve traffic safety in the area and redesign the bridge’s exit ramp after a series of accidents in 2011. But a redesign of the exit ramp was “ignored” and only “additional signage and minimal barriers” were added, according to Gianaris. The barrier, which was destroyed in a 2011 crash was never replaced, he said, and could have protected the storefront in Tuesday’s accident.

“How many more people have to die before the DOT understands that the Queensboro Bridge exit ramp must be redesigned? The city has known that this area is in dire need of traffic safety improvements for years, and the DOT has simply not done enough. I renew my call for a complete redesign of the bridge off-ramp, and implore the city to take swift action before another tragedy occurs,” said Gianaris.

According to Seth Solomonow, DOT spokesperson, as of 2011, the ramp has been equipped with a large variety of traffic management devices, including three 20 mph word messages and “sharks teeth” markings on the roadway, 14 yellow and 12 white 36”-by-8” aluminum-backed reflectors, plus another 150 yellow and white prismatic reflectors on the bridge rail uprights, four sets of rumble strips to warn drivers that they are approaching a reduced speed zone and an electronic sign that displays the speed of passing motorists using radar technology.

Additional reporting by Angy Altamirano

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Take a subway ride back in time on the Holiday Nostalgia Train


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of MTA

Once again, straphangers can ride the MTA’s Holiday Nostalgia Train, departing Sundays from Queens Plaza and Second Avenue in downtown Manhattan.

The special subway runs on the “M” line, making all stops between the two stations, and is made up of cars that were in service between 1932 and 1977.

Inside riders will find many features that are not a part of today’s cars, including ceiling fans and padded seats.

The Holiday Nostalgia Train runs until December 30.

Leaving 2nd Avenue:

  • 10:01 a.m.
  • 11:31 a.m.
  • 1:01 p.m.
  • 2:30 p.m.
  • 4:01 p.m.

Leaving Queens Plaza:

  • 10:44 p.m.
  • 12:14 p.m.
  • 1:43 p.m.
  • 3:14 p.m.
  • 4:44 p.m.

Despite lawsuits, DOT work, off-ramp still unsafe


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

A stretch of street – proven unsafe for cars, pedestrians and even storefronts – has “struck” again.

Following three crashes in as many months in 2011, another car accident occurred on May 1 at the off-ramp of the Ed Koch-Queensborough Bridge, located on Queens Plaza South near Crescent Street in Long Island City.

A taxi driver came off of the exit and collided with scaffolding, but no one was injured during the incident.

The crash was the fourth overall in the last 12 months – including two accidents within nine days of each other last year, during which drivers were speeding and failed to negotiate the sharp turn at the end of the ramp, causing them to smash their cars into two nearby storefronts. One passenger and one pedestrian were killed in the accidents, and both drivers lost a limb.

The proprietors of the two stores – Espinal Caribbean Restaurant II and Villa De Beauté hair salon – are suing a number of parties, including the city, Department of Transportation (DOT) and the drivers and owners of the vehicles, for roughly $1 million in damages.

“There was negligence on the part of the various defendants,” said Scott Agulnick, the shop owners’ attorney. “Our lawsuit is not like a personal injury lawsuit. We are actually seeking real damages – the loss of equipment, inventory, improvements and revenue itself, along with the good faith the businesses had built. The various parties owe a duty to use the reasonable care that an ordinary person would do under those circumstances. Those people who are designing the roadway and the traffic pattern owed a reasonable duty when doing so to prevent a dangerous situation. The drivers of the vehicle owed a duty of care to keep their vehicles under control, and the owners of the vehicles are vicariously liable.”

The store owners, 44-year-old Tony Espinal and 32-year-old Akber Jiwani, were unavailable for comment.

Agulnick says Espinal is focusing on his other restaurant, while Jiwani, whose equipment and revenue was not insured, is struggling and uncertain regarding his future plans.
The recent crash represents the resurgence of a problem the city hoped it had already remedied.

Following last year’s barrage of accidents, the DOT attempted to improve safety conditions in the area by changing traffic patterns, increasing signs and erecting concrete barricades on the edge of the sidewalk.

According to DOT spokesperson Nicholas Mosquera, the department regularly reminds drivers of the appropriate speed limits on bridges and has also installed rumble strips, flashing lights and reflective tape at the off-ramp.

Senator Michael Gianaris, who was among several elected officials who requested the DOT institute the changes, believes more must be done to keep people out of harm’s way.

Despite the traffic improvements, many who work and live in the area still consider crossing near the ramp unsafe, while others believe the ramp is only dangerous when people do not follow proper traffic laws and procedures.

James Haran, who works down the block from the ramp, has seen damage done first hand.

“People are hectic coming off the bridge,” said Haran. “They cut people off and it can cause accidents. There is also a good amount of speeding. This is definitely not the best place to drive. I wouldn’t feel comfortable driving or crossing the street at this spot. My friend was hit by a speeding car at this spot two weeks ago. He is still in the hospital with a broken leg and has had four surgeries.”

JetBlue sign will grace L.I.C. sky


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Following a year of cutting through red tape – and mulling a move to Florida – JetBlue has been given the green light to provide Long Island City with a “sign” that they are here to stay.

The City Council voted unanimously on April 30 to approve a zoning amendment allowing companies to construct signs on non-residential buildings along 14 blocks of a

Queens Plaza sub-district – which runs between 23rd Street and the Sunnyside railroad yard.

The changes were pushed by JetBlue so the airline could construct a sign of its logo on the rooftop of its new headquarters in the Brewster Building, located at 27-01 Queens Plaza North in L.I.C.

JetBlue was considering departing New York and landing in Orlando last year, but was ultimately enticed into staying by a city package consisting of tax exemptions and marketing-relating incentives – reportedly reaching $30 million. The airline moved to the Brewster Building on April 4, bringing 1,000 of its 5,300 Queens-based employees to L.I.C.

“We are New York’s hometown airline and this sign will reinforce our status as an iconic New York brand,” said Tamara Young, manager of corporate communications for JetBlue. “We are proud to be here and we are proud to be a neighbor in L.I.C. We want to introduce ourselves to our neighbors and be a part of the driving force in the development that is taking place in the neighborhood. This sign is a way to do that.”

The proposed placard will be formed out of a steel box with an acrylic face and will be illuminated at night by high efficiency LED light strips, making the letters blue during the day and appear white after sundown. It will be 42 feet high and 75 feet wide – with the tallest letter reaching 25 feet – and will encompass similar qualities to other historic advertisements across the neighborhood, including the Silvercup and Pepsi signs. If no other obstacles are encountered, JetBlue believes the sign will be installed early in the fall.

Zoning regulations put in place in 2001 restricted the height of new signs in manufacturing districts to 40 feet above curb level. In order to rewrite the rules, JetBlue initially had to receive approval from Community Boards (CB) 1 and 2. Although CB 1 passed the airline’s application, the board members did suggest the “rooftop sign be limited to a tenant that occupied a minimum of 25 percent of the total building area” and that subleasing not be allowed. CB 2 voted unanimously against the changes, citing the “lack of oversight and community input and comment on any future rooftop signs.”

CB 2 was reportedly concerned that too many signs would sprout up on neighborhood buildings, causing a similar scene to Las Vegas or Times Square.
Dutch Kills Civic Association President Jerry Walsh believes the zoning rules should not be comprehensive, but each case should be studied independently.
“I think each sign should be looked at individually. It shouldn’t be a blanket thing,” Walsh said. “You have to be a major renter of the building to put a sign up. You can’t live in a closet and expect to get a sign up. We don’t want to see flashing signs like on 42nd Street.”

To ease community apprehension, Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer worked with the Department of City Planning to rework the amendment – stipulating that only tenants that occupied 20 percent or 50,000 square feet of a building could erect a sign on its roof.

CB 2 subsequently approved the proposal, followed by a City Council subcommittee on zoning and the entire council.

Van Bramer said he is not worried about the area resembling the glitzy midtown Manhattan attraction due to the few buildings that are eligible to apply for signs. The councilmember went on to say he believes the number of signs will ultimately be minimal, while the passage of the amendment is an important step for JetBlue’s success.

“I think the arrival of JetBlue is great news for L.I.C.,” Van Bramer said. “Its sign will be a visual reminder of the transformation and rebirth of the Dutch Kills and Queens Plaza area. I think it will be a sign that L.I.C. is open for business and good for business. JetBlue brings vitality and energy and life. I hope it will attract more businesses to come to Queens Plaza, Dutch Kills and L.I.C.”

Forest Hills biz hurt by JetBlue departure


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Forest Hills Tower 3w

JetBlue’s takeoff from Forest Hills has been rocky for local businesses – now severely struggling to survive.

A number of merchants say they have lost large percentages of their business since the airline moved from its headquarters in the Forest Hills Tower, located on Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike, to a modernized facility in Queens Plaza in Long Island City last week – taking with it roughly 900 employees and daily customers.

Con Edison, which has roughly 80 employees in the Forest Hills Tower, is also moving. Several employees left on April 6, and the rest are expected to move by the end of the year, according to a Con Edison spokesperson.

Rikin Patel, the 23 year old who runs Mini LLC, a coffee and snack shop in the lobby of the building, says business has dropped nearly 60 percent in the past week.

“Since JetBlue left, everything has been quiet. Business is very slow,” said Patel, who is now covering expenses out of pocket. “I’m just trying to survive right now. I’m trying to cut down expenses and survive until a new company comes. It’s been one week, so it is too early to say whether we’re able to survive.”

Patel believes business should return to normal when the space is filled with a new tenant.

Matt Davidov, owner of Hot Bialys & Bagels, located a block away from the office building, says his shop used to be very busy thanks to JetBlue customers, who accounted for at least 30 percent of his business.

“We had a lot of JetBlue people coming in. We used to be busy but not anymore,” Davidov said. “I’m concerned to the extent of how I’m going to pay for things, but I’m cutting down here and there. I could probably survive a few months longer without cutting down on the staff. Beyond that, I would have to make cuts.”

JetBlue employees used to get 10 percent off at Davidov’s store, due to the volume of customers, but the owner says he can no longer afford to offer discounts and still earn a profit – which he claims is a common dilemma in the area.

“All the businesses around here are suffering,” he said. “There were a lot of businesses that opened up just because of [JetBlue] being here.”

Leslie Brown, president of the Forest Hills Chamber of Commerce, says one local shop recently closed in part because of JetBlue’s departure.

“We are sorry to see that [JetBlue is] leaving Forest Hills,” Brown said. “We liked the fact that JetBlue called Forest Hills its home. The small shops are going to feel the difference of 900 people not buying coffee or lunch or going shopping on their break or having a drink after work. Hopefully, another corporation will come in and take over the space because Forest Hills is such a vibrant place and a great place to do business.”

A spokesperson for Muss Development LLC, which owns the 17-story Forest Hills Tower, could not comment regarding prospective tenants or a timetable for replacing JetBlue, which occupied 10 stories of the building. The spokesperson did say there has been “a lot of interest from potential tenants.”

Ken Siegel, the international managing director of Jones Lang LaSalle, which is marketing the space, says there has been “a good amount of interest, both from local firms and firms from western Nassau and Manhattan.” Siegel expects to have the location “fully leased within the next few months,” due in large part to the building’s municipal incentives, panoramas of Manhattan and proximity to public transportation.

Reports have indicated that Plaza College, a business and health school located in Jackson Heights, and the Queens District Attorney’s Office is interested in potentially leasing the space.

You can name a Queens park


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Now, you can name a piece of Queens.

The New York City Economic Development Corp. is asking residents to dub the 1.5 acre open space at the eastern end of Queens Plaza in Long Island City.

The contest is open to New York City residents. The winning name will be selected by city representatives and the local community.

Click here to submit your entry. The contest will be open until 5 p.m. on October 26.

The name will be unveiled at the park’s official ribbon-cutting event and the winner will have the opportunity to meet Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The former John F. Kennedy parking lot has recently been transformed with over $45 million in roadway, sidewalk, and bikeway improvements. The L.I.C. park features wetlands, native plantings, artist-designed benches and paving.