CityViews: Long Island City does not Need a Vertical ‘Country-Club’ on Public Land

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Haruka Sakaguchi

One of two public sites that EDC plans to give to the private developer TF Cornerstone for a 1,000 unit residential project. The public land is located right next to other waterfront, luxury properties developed by TF Cornerstone.

There’s something different about the newest luxury towers planned for Long Island City’s waterfront. The private developer, TF Cornerstone, has already developed 6 waterfront LIC properties, but this time, it plans to build on public, city-owned land—one of the few remaining parcels in Long Island City.

Earlier this year, the NYC Economic Development Corporation (EDC) announced its selection of TF Cornerstone to redevelop the public site. Considering that Mayor de Blasio has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from private developers, including TF Cornerstone, the “carrots” offered in this deal for Queens residents should be considered with a generous grain of salt:

  • 250 units of affordable housing: The so-called “affordable” units will be out of reach for truly low-income residents—and even these units will make up only 25 percent of the total 1,000 residential units that will be primarily luxury housing. The inclusion of affordable housing is not a gift; but rather, the bare minimum requirement for TF Cornerstone to qualify for 35-year tax breaks.
  • Approx. one-acre park with canoe and kayak launch point: This park will not relieve the shortage of green space as it would primarily serve as a backyard for the new luxury towers which alone will house 1,000 new households.
  • Public school: Again, this project will not relieve the overcrowding of LIC schools as it will simultaneously bring in 1,000 new households. More households means more children who need schools.
  • Thousands of new jobs: The lead selling point for this project is that it would create 4,000 jobs; however, more than half of the jobs (2,500) will be temporary construction jobs.
  • New industrial space: Finally, the crowning jewel of the project is industrial space managed by a nonprofit organization. However, this “affordable” industrial component actually makes up less than 10 percent of the massive 515,000 square feet of industrial, commercial, and retail space that TF Cornerstone plans to build—and profit from.

What would another TF Cornerstone development look like?

TF Cornerstone has already developed numerous towers including the 4540 Center Boulevard building right next to the proposed redevelopment site. These developments include tennis courts, sand volleyball courts, billiards, theater, gyms and more —an intentional design to ensure residents circulate disposable income and time within their building, rather than walking the actual neighborhood where they might support existing local businesses.

Our residents can indulge in a country-club-like atmosphere without leaving their own street,” bragged Sofia Estevez, TF Cornerstone’s executive vice president, in a recent statement.

As City Limits has previously reported, over 95 percent of all recent Long Island City developments have been market rate housing (read: unaffordable), so it is hard to imagine that the neighborhood truly needs another country club—let alone one that is built with public support.

Yes, Queens residents need new jobs, parks and affordable housing – but we can in fact achieve these goals without luxury housing. There are dozens of nonprofit developers across NYC that would readily seize the opportunity to develop true community space and affordable housing, if they weren’t always overlooked by the city for private developers like TF Cornerstone, Jonathan Rose Companies and L&M Developer Partners.

Can this project be stopped? – YES!

The public site is zoned for manufacturing use and therefore a luxury residential tower cannot be built as-of-right. To change the zoning, the project will have to go through the formal community review process, the Uniform Land Review Process (ULURP). Once in ULURP, the project will require an advisory vote from the community board’s land use committee and full board. And most importantly, it will require a vote from City Council, which almost always defers to the local City Council Member.

In other words, if Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer opposes this project, it is dead.

Only a few months ago, Crown Heights residents succeeded in convincing their local Council Woman and Borough President to oppose a similar project in Brooklyn where the same agency, EDC, sought to privatize another public site, the Brooklyn-Union Armory. In that project, at least 50 percent of the rentals and 20 percent of the condos would be affordable, but Crown Heights residents wouldn’t be sold short. They mobilized and organized, and successfully pressured their local elected officials who are now calling for nothing short of a 100 percent affordable project. We can do the same in Queens.

Hundreds of residents have already signed onto an LIC Coalition petition against the TF Cornerstone project, and as more residents learn about this public land give-away to a “country-club” developer, this movement will only grow.

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The Queens Anti-Gentrification Project will host an event on the privatization of public space on Wednesday, October 25 at 6:30-8:30 PM at the Greater Astoria Historical Society. Click here to RSVP or visit our website to learn more or sign our petition. Read our earlier op-ed on gentrification in LIC here.

12 thoughts on “CityViews: Long Island City does not Need a Vertical ‘Country-Club’ on Public Land

  1. Actually the project sounds good for the community. I would love this waterfront park and new school. Plus LIC needs new commercial development otherwise it is just a bedroom community. Mixed income housing is the only way to pay for it – plus there is still a housing shortage so more development will keep my rent down. I think most reasonable folks see the big picture. The city changes over time. We need to embrace it and just be happy these rent market rate condos.

    • “embrace it and just be happy these rent market rate condos”?
      “Mixed-income housing is the only way to pay for [new commercial development]?”

      This is utter nonsense. We need deeply affordable housing to avoid residents getting displaced—or worse, ending up homeless—and there is very little city-owned land left, where the city can control what happens. 100% deeply affordable housing should be built here, not luxury condos, not “country clubs” where residents never become part of the community, where the developers boast that residents can segregate themselves inside their vertical, gated “country club” communities without ever having to engage with their surrounding community.

  2. I love living in LIC and I’m considering TFC when my current lease expires. Why do so many say NO to progress. I’d much rather see well designed, beautiful buildings that are managed by professional companies as opposed to big city / state run bland buildings. I would like to see more affordable rents, let them flood the market with apartments and the rents will come down or level. Say YES TO PROGRESS

  3. LIC is overbuilt. Same subway service for decades and EDC head James Patchett is a tool to REBNY. He should not be in charge and should of been fired ages ago. Patchett is the same guy who signed off on the Rivington deed since he was so inept.

    • actually there is a requirement for an 80,000 SF school on site plus affordable housing, offices and tons of other community benefits. the haters don’t want to listen to the facts.
      they make up their mind based on emotion not rational thinking. 1 bedrooms in LIC are still expensive. we need to build our way out of this housing crisis. i hate crowned subways too but it is part of living in the greatest and most dynamic city in the entire world.

  4. Pingback: CityViews: Long Island City does not Need a Vertical ‘Country-Club’ on Public Land | Contested Sites

  5. As LES mentioned above-

    EDC head James Patchett is a tool to REBNY. He should not be in charge and should have been fired ages ago. Patchett is the same guy who signed off on the Rivington deed since he was so inept.

    Need we say more.
    EDC needs to be investigated as it appears to be an ongoing criminal enterprise, with little compassion for NYC residents and multiple payoffs to the real estate mafia. By the way, tax write offs to real estate companies is corporate welfare with the peoples tax money!

  6. LOL pathetic real estate trolls. Actual community residents know that this development is a disaster for the neighborhood, and that most of us won’t be able to afford to live or work there, because the “manufacturing” space won’t be affordable work space for working artists manufacturers who would provide good jobs to local residents: the new tenants will be fancy “creative-tech” firms. And to top it all off, this is a massive giveaway of public land. Shameful and unconscionable.

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