Queens West Project Rolls Along
Business leaders and builder big-wigs recently came together at the Riverview Restaurant for the periodic Long Island City Business Development Corporation breakfast for an update on the project.
New Queens West President Paul Januszewski addressed the LICBDC. “The Queens West building project is on its way to completion,” he said. “We have mad much progress and hope to have all building completed by 2012.”
Queens West is a 74-acre joint venture built in conjunction with private business developers that when complete will stretch from Newtown Creek to the Anabelle Basin.
Residential builders Rock Rose and Avalon Bay have been working with the City, state and Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to complete residential towers on the site that formerly housed factories and industrial shops.
“We are in the process of remaking this area from industrial property to a mixed-use neighborhood,” Januszewski said. “As this project progresses, we will see more community building, then the schools, parks and shops will come.”
Therein lies the problem. The area is now devoid of much life. But, according to Queens West, retail businesses are coming.
The project was divided into four stages, with the last two sections yet to be completed. When they are, retail is said to follow with a Duane Reade Pharmacy and a supermarket providing an anchor for other businesses.
The first two stages of the plan are nearly complete. These include 2,800 units of housing in two buildings and a new public school.
The other two stages of construction will begin in earnest after the sites are remediated within a year, according to Januszewski. Stage two includes building seven new residential buildings with 16,000 housing units, another school, a library and a new park.
Januszewski said of progress on the site, “We want to put up a new building every six months until Queens West is complete.”
By most accounts, the area was in decline, but some residents have felt shafted due to lack of input and the scarcity of affordable housing included in the site plan.
The project was originally to include 5,000 units of affordable housing. Queens West was to be a mixed-income community. Originally hailed by community groups, further analysis revealed other conclusions.
Much of this opposition is based on an issue brief released by the Pratt Center for Community Development in November 2006. The brief argued that none of the housing units are truly affordable. Statistics in the brief show that 60 percent of Queens residents make less than $60,000 a year, the minimum threshold for a family of four to rent an apartment in the planned project.
Brad Lander, director of the Pratt Center, previously said the city needs to consider that more than half of Queens’ residents, even two-salary households with children, earn less than this threshold.
Lander told the Queens Tribune that average rents in Queens, the city’s most overcrowded borough, rose 7 percent between 2002 and 2005, while at the same time median household incomes dropped 6 percent, from $48,162 to $45,000.
Another community concern is the overcrowding such large-scale building will inevitably bring.
To reduce commuter crowding on the trip over the East River, the City plans to increase ferry service to the area as an alternative means of transportation. The ferries would run weekdays from 7 to 10 a.m. and drop passengers off at 34th Street, on the Eastside.