Tag Archives: State of the City

City accepting proposals to develop NYPD parking garage in downtown Jamaica


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark 

Even more development is coming to Jamaica—this time on the site of a police department parking garage.

Not long after Mayor Bill de Blasio’s pledge to focus on creating more housing with his State of the City address, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) officially announced a request for proposals to develop hundreds of market rate and affordable units out of an NYPD parking garage in downtown Jamaica.

The 59,500-square-foot site at 93rd Avenue and 169th Street could also include ground-floor retail, according to the EDC, which set an April 30 deadline for developers to submit plans for the lot. Of course the project is consistent with de Blasio’s goal to build and preserve 200,000 affordable housing units in 10 years.

The two-story garage is currently used by cops, and will have to be entirely demolished to construct the new project, according to the EDC. But it’s a price the city is willing to pay for more housing.

“The 168th Street garage site holds powerful potential to serve the Jamaica neighborhood with affordable housing and other amenities, while building upon the area’s strengths as a commercial, cultural and transit hub,” said EDC President Kyle Kimball.

Police vehicles will have to be “accommodated” in order to redevelop the site, the EDC said.

Photo courtesy of NYCEDC

Photo courtesy of NYCEDC

The development could create 400 construction jobs and 80 permanent jobs, the EDC said, and would add another project to the dizzying amount of construction coming to Jamaica near the downtown spurred by under-utilized lots, cheap land prices, high traffic and access to a massive transportation hub.

This includes Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) giving its twin parking lots near 90th Avenue and 168th Street to Blumenfeld Development Group for a jumbo mixed-use residential and commercial project, with more than 265,000 square feet of space.

The GJDC is also working on a $225 million, 29-story residential and commercial tower across from the AirTrain and LIRR station on Sutphin Boulevard.

Not far away on Sutphin Boulevard, Able Management Group is constructing a 210-key hotel, and nearby York College has 3.5 acres of on-campus land that could be home to new companies that want to move into the area to partner with the institution through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax-break program.

TCX Development’s seven-story luxury rental building on Hillside Avenue is nearing completion, and some major properties have also hit the market or were recently sold, including a $22 million sale of a huge garage and commercial strip at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave. There are already plans to develop the property into a housing and retail mix, according to a published report.

Also, the Jamaica Colosseum Mall, which was formerly a Macy’s department store, also hit the market for an astounding $45 million.

And finally, the Department of Housing Preservation and Development recently announced that it is accepting plans from developers for 17 vacant city-owned sites in Jamaica to create more affordable housing.

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Goldfeder urging National Grid for plant site usage as new hope arises in fight for ferry service


| slicata@queenscourier.com

File photo

As Mayor de Blasio announced plans for a resumption of ferry service to the Rockaways, local elected officials and community advocates immediately took up the call for community development projects that they say would go hand-in-hand with a ferry — including a proposal for a new parking lot on the site of an old gas plant.

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder has asked National Grid President Dean Seavers to review and consider community suggestions for uses of a former manufactured gas plant the utility company owns at the corner of Beach 108th Street and Rockaway Beach Boulevard. Among the possible uses of the site, could be for a parking lot for the nearby ferry terminal.

“Rarely do we have the opportunity to redevelop such a large site with so much potential to revitalize the community. The Rockaway Park MGP site is a ‘blank slate’ on which we can write the future economic development of the Rockaway Peninsula,” Goldfeder said. “I urge National Grid to consider the community’s suggestions for the site as we work together to put an end to the cycle of blight and decay that Rockaway families have endured for too long.”

Following Superstorm Sandy, Goldfeder secured an agreement from National Grid to allow hundreds of daily Rockaway Ferry commuters to park at the site for what was temporary ferry service. He and residents of Rockaway who are looking for a restoration of the ferry are hoping that the property can once again be used for parking once ferry service resumes.

De Blasio unveiled his proposal for a citywide ferry service during his State of the City speech on Feb. 3.

“Today, we announce that we’re launching a new citywide ferry service to be open for business in 2017,” he said. “New ferry rides will be priced the same as a MetroCard fare, so ferries will be as affordable to everyday New Yorkers as our subways and buses. … so residents of the Rockaways and Red Hook and Soundview will now be closer to the opportunities they need.”

Other politicians on the peninsula talked about how important this restoration would be to the local economy.

“Rockaway has great year-round potential, but its major economic strength is its summer season, which is a time when connecting the peninsula with the remainder of the city would maximize the benefit for all individuals within the city limits,” said state Sen. Joe Addabbo. “Right now, the peninsula’s only viable transportation option is a water, ferry service.”

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

THE COURIER/Photo by Salvatore Licata

Having the large National Grid site as an option for parking now comes into play for ferry riders.

“We appreciate that National Grid made their property available for Rockaway residents to park their vehicles to utilize the ferry service,” said Rockaway Ferry advocate Danny Ruscillo. “Our hope is that when National Grid no longer has a need for this property, they take into consideration the community’s interests, including ferry transportation and parking, when finding the best use for the site.”

The former Rockaway Park Manufactured Gas Plant (MGP) occupied the 9-acre lot between Beach Channel Drive and the Rockaway Freeway at Beach 108th Street. From the 1880s until the mid-1950s, the site housed gas production and storage facilities operated by the Long Island Lighting Company (LILCO). In 1998, the ownership of the site transferred to KeySpan in a merger between LILCO and Brooklyn Union Gas Company.

In a 2006 decision, the state Department of Environmental Conservation ordered KeySpan to begin remedial action to remove toxic waste and contaminated ground soil from the site. National Grid took over cleanup at the site when it bought out KeySpan in 2008 and they are now in their final steps of their efforts.

Goldfeder did not only suggest for the site to be used as a parking lot. He is mainly asking that when National Grid has no more use for the site, they take into consideration what the Rockaway community wants.

“Our families have seen so much destruction in the wake of Superstorm Sandy,” he noted.

“Allowing the community to be a large part of the process in determining the future of the MGP site will send a strong message that the community is not only building back stronger but that our residents have a voice for the future.”

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Queens is ground zero for Mayor de Blasio’s plan to create affordable housing


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photographer/Mayoral Photography Office

Queens is at the center of a sweeping plan to create affordable housing unveiled by Mayor Bill de Blasio in his State of the City speech on Tuesday, including a push to create more than 11,000 new homes above the Sunnyside Rail Yard — a project as large as Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town.

In his second State of the City address, de Blasio reviewed his top accomplishments, including creating full-day pre-kindergarten, doubling the enrollment in after-school programs,  and enacting living wage and paid sick leave. There was also a 75-percent reduction in the use of stop-and-frisk by the NYPD.

Looking forward, de Blasio focused on the issue of housing that remains one of the major obstacles to what he described as opportunity inequality.

The mayor, who called the effort to create affordable housing a “profound challenge,” turned repeatedly to Queens as a large part of the answer. He pledged to write new rules, “ones that mandate affordable housing as a condition for development.”

Two of six neighborhoods in the city he has slated for mandatory affordable housing requirements are Long Island City and western Flushing. Each of the four other boroughs will have one such zone. The city will begin work on rezoning these neighborhoods this spring.

“In every major rezoning development, we will require developers to include affordable housing. Not as an option. As a precondition,” he said, citing another Queens project as an example of how the mandate works.


“Want to see this approach in action?  Look at Astoria Cove in Queens. As a result of this administration’s framework — and the City Council’s tough negotiations — 465 units of affordable housing will be created at this site alone,” de Blasio said.

“That’s 465 families who no longer have to choose between living in the city they call home, or finding another city they can afford. It means that hundreds of kids will live and learn and grow in our city.”

But de Blasio said his “game changer” for new affordable housing would take place at the Amtrak-owned rail yard in Sunnyside, where he is proposing building above the tracks to make use of the massive swath of land while allowing rail operations to continue.

“Right now, there are 200 acres of land in the heart of Queens, land that exists in the form of a rail yard — and only a rail yard. But the fact is, those tracks could easily exist underground — allowing us to build housing — much of it affordable — above them.

“At Sunnyside Yards, we envision a plan that incorporates what diverse and dynamic neighborhoods need — access to transportation, parks, schools, retail stores and job opportunities,” he said.

The mayor compared the potential at Sunnyside to other affordable housing built in the past, including Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town, which has 11,250 apartments. He said Sunnyside should include the same amount of affordable units as the Manhattan complex.

However, according to Patrick O’Brien, chair of Community Board 2, although the goal is admirable, the plan raises some concern because of the lack of infrastructure to support an incoming population. He added the surrounding area would need updates in transportation options, medical services, such as hospitals, and schools.

“Long Island City and western Queens is so densely populated and we’ve gone through and are in the midst of a huge population increase,” O’Brien said. “To have an enormous additional increase on top of a previous increase, that really doesn’t have the full infrastructure support that it needs, is really a matter of concern.”

While de Blasio said he wants to build 80,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade, he insisted that it would not be to the exclusion of market-rate housing. He projects the construction of 160,000 new market-rate units over the same period.

De Blasio said the growing shortage of affordable housing has occurred over more than a decade of housing construction that focused on luxury or market-rate construction. The result, he said, is that 56 percent of New Yorkers are paying more than 30 percent of their salary for rent, up from 46 percent a decade earlier.

“Part of the problem is that the city has for decades let developers write their own rules when it came to building housing. Sometimes projects included affordable housing…but far too often, they did not,” he said. “As the city expanded, our growth was guided primarily by the developers’ bottom lines.”

The mayor also unveiled a stunning proposal to create a new citywide ferry service reaching far flung neighborhoods, particularly the Rockaways, and for expanded express bus service, including a line along Woodhaven Boulevard.

He said that by 2017, residents of neighborhoods like the Rockaways and Astoria, would be able to take a ferry to Manhattan.

“New ferry rides will be priced the same as a MetroCard fare, so ferries will be as affordable to everyday New Yorkers as our subways and buses,” he said. “[S]o residents of the Rockaways and Red Hook and Soundview will now be closer to the opportunities they need.”

The mayor predicted that the new ferry service would also be an economic boon to neighborhoods, spurring new commercial corridors in the outer boroughs.

“We will also expand Bus Rapid Transit — or BRT — serving 400,000 New Yorkers along key thoroughfares like Utica Avenue in Brooklyn and Woodhaven Boulevard in Queens…completing a network of 20 routes over the next four years,” he said.

The new Bus Rapid Transit lines, he said, would cut transit time on existing routes by 15 to 24 percent. “That means New Yorkers spending less time in transit and more time living their lives.”

The mayor insisted that expanding affordable housing could work, and he cited a similar effort by former Mayor Ed Koch.

“But we know now that Koch’s plan was realistic… in fact, it worked,” said de Blasio. “And it had a transcendent impact on our city.“

Photos from the mayor’s speech and of the officials attending the event (By The Queens Courier Staff):

 

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Mayor de Blasio takes on income gap in first State of the City address


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

In his first State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio vowed to battle the inequality gap, with plans to raise the city’s minimum wage, provide more affordable housing and further educational opportunities.

Just a month after taking office, de Blasio laid out his ambitious agenda Monday, during the speech at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City.

“The state of our city, as we find it today, is a Tale of Two Cities – with an inequality gap that fundamentally threatens our future,” he said, referencing his campaign slogan.

The mayor said the school’s namesake, former Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, and the college in many ways, represented his own vision for the city.

“[LaGuardia Community College] is a place where New Yorkers from all walks of life can find a path to a future, with a good job and a shot at a better life,” de Blasio said.

Before detailing his plans to help close the income gap, he warned of the budgetary challenges the city is facing, with more than 150 unsettled municipal contracts. But he promised to “navigate towards a future that is progressive and fiscally responsible.”

He also vowed, through a series of measures, to “lift the floor for all New Yorkers.”

“New York will only work when it works as one city,” he said.

De Blasio said he would work with the City Council to increase the number of living wage jobs offered by employers that the city subsidizes.

The city will also ask Albany to give it the power to raise its minimum wage, he said.

In his address, de Blasio pledged to preserve or construct nearly 200,000 units of affordable housing, and said that a newly appointed team of leaders at the city’s housing agencies would release a plan to do so by May 1.

He additionally offered a plan to “protect the city’s almost half-million undocumented New Yorkers,” that would, regardless of immigration status, issue municipal ID cards to all New Yorkers this year.

The mayor also said he his administration would focus on Sandy recovery efforts “with a comprehensive review and updated plan.”

De Blasio’s speech, however, did not waiver much from his message of closing the income gap.

He said education was a key to ending the “Tale of Two Cities,” from pre-kindergarten to higher learning.

The mayor vowed to expand STEM and health care-oriented training programs in high schools and at CUNY, and set other goals to make sure more high-quality jobs in the five boroughs are filled are by those educated in the city’s schools.

He also made his case for his plan for universal, full-day pre-kindergarten that would tax the rich to pay for it.

“We’re simply asking Albany to allow New York City to tax itself – its wealthiest residents… those making a half-million or more a year,” de Blasio said.

 

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Quinn focuses on middle class in State of the City address


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Official NYC City Council photo by William Alatriste

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, in her final State of the City address, promised it would become more affordable to live and work in New York in the years to come.

Quinn, who will be term limited out of the Council at the end of this year, is a heavy favorite on the Democratic side as a mayoral candidate.

“Every day, as I travel the five boroughs, I talk to people with those same hopes for the future, with the same incredible work ethic, and the same belief that there is no better place to be than New York City,” Quinn said. “I’m incredibly proud that in the last seven years, this City Council has built a record, not of words and criticisms, but of actions and results.”

In her hour-plus speech, Quinn promised to ensure the working middle class be able to stay and prosper in the city — and will do so through a number of current and future programs.

“Our top priority must be to keep our middle class here, attract new middle class families, and give every New Yorker the opportunity to enter the middle class,” she said. “Simply put, we face an affordability crisis in our city and it cuts right at the fabric of New York. We need to make sure that the people who want to stay in our great city can afford to stay here.”

On a related note, Quinn announced an incentive for residential building owners to convert a certain number of units into affordable housing. In return, the city will cap property taxes on the building based on rental intake.

“It’s a win for them, a win for middle class renters, and a win for the city,” Quinn said. “This is how we retain economic diversity in neighborhoods that have become harder to reach for the middle class.”

 

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Speaker Quinn delivers State of the City


| smosco@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn

Focusing on ways to improve education and strengthen communities, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn delivered her 2012 State of the City address at City Hall on Thursday, February 9.

In her 6th annual address, Quinn outlined proposals ranging from securing homes for families to providing quality education for children to providing job opportunities for the unemployed to bolstering the five boroughs’ economic potential.

“Now more than ever, we need to tap into the power of our communities,” she said. “We need to restore the promise that everyone can succeed in New York, no matter how humble their origins, with a bit of help and a lot of hard work.”

Quinn said it would take a lot of hard work to help the city’s education system – but to achieve real success in schools, Quinn believes the key is to start young. To that end, Quinn proposed making kindergarten mandatory for all city 5 year olds. Currently, kindergarten is not required and Quinn said that many kids are missing out on critical early education.

“Every year nearly 3,000 5-year-olds in New York City don’t enroll in kindergarten,” she said. “That means thousands of kids enter first grade every year having never set foot in a classroom. Many of them are kids who need kindergarten the most. We’re working with the State Legislature to introduce a bill allowing New York City to make kindergarten mandatory.”

Quinn also touched on the college careers of city school children, calling for the creation of a tuition-free CUNY Honors College for the city’s top students. The proposed college will have a campus, facilities and programs allowing it to compete with the nation’s top institutions.

Beyond education, Quinn spoke about the need to secure healthcare for New Yorkers, announcing an initiative to improve worker health and reduce health care costs. Quinn said the City Council will provide $100,000 in funding to launch the Freelancers Union’s flagship Brooklyn health clinic.

“This kind of creative health care model has the power to connect more New Yorkers to primary care, take some of the burden off of struggling hospitals, and strengthen our non-profit healthcare system,” she said. “That’s how we make good on the promise of New York – by ensuring that every generation has greater opportunity than the ones that came before.”

Watch Mayor Bloomberg dance to Lady Gaga in State of the City intro video


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Bloom

Before Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his way to the podium for his 11th State of the City speech, he was introduced by a short, entertaining video chronicling his “journey” to get to this year’s speech.  Along the way he poked fun at himself — he danced to Lady Gaga who helped him ring in the new year with a kiss — and issues he has fought for over the years, including bike lanes and taxis in the outer boroughs.  Numerous city officials were featured in the video — Chancellor Dennis Walcott, press secretary Stu Loeser, Health Commissioner Thomas Farley and Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan all made appearances.  The scene stealer, though, was former Mayor Ed Koch standing at the entrance of the former Queensboro Bridge shouting at drivers welcoming them to “his” bridge.  Watch the full video below.  What do you think of the video?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg makes his State of the City speech


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his State of the City highlighting ambitious plans to continue his overhaul of the “broken system” he faced when he entered office.

Before the mayor made his way to the podium a short video was played chronicling his “journey” to get to this year’s speech.  Along the way he poked fun at himself — he danced to Lady Gaga who helped him ring in the new year with a kiss — and issues he has fought for over the years, including bike lanes and taxis in the outer boroughs.  It also featured former Mayor Ed Koch welcoming motorists to “his” bridge, the former Queensboro Bridge.

Bloomberg opened up his 11th State of the City speech at Morris High School in the Bronx outlining the successes his administration has had.

“We did” became a running theme through the beginning of the speech.

“We said we’d launch a new East River ferry service, balance the budget and hold the line on taxes. And in partnership with Speaker Christine Quinn and the City Council — we did,” Bloomberg said.  ““We said we’d seek to attract a world-class university to build a new science and engineering campus here – the brainchild of EDC President Seth Pinsky and Deputy Mayor Bob Steel — and we did.”

The bulk of the speech focused on education and his commitment to continue improving the system.

“We took on the broken system, and by stressing accountability and innovation and ending social promotion, we’ve made real progress turning it around,” the mayor said.

His plan included retaining top teachers through pay raises, attracting top flight teachers by agreeing to pay student loans and by toughening guidelines for evaluating teachers.

Stay with The Queens Courier for the full story.