Soon after Amazon canceled plans to build a new headquarters in Long Island City, the city began reviving earlier plans to bring a mix of residential and industrial spaces to the neighborhood. Developers and city officials are still in talks over how the 28-acre site—which includes land owned by both the city and plastics company Plaxall—will be used. As Politico recently reported, the vision is starting to come into sharper focus with property owners now engaging the neighborhood and community board to help determine the future of the waterfront site.
As 6sqft previously reported, the city first issued a request for proposals on two city-owned sites along 44th Drive in Long Island City’s waterfront area, known as Anable Basin, three years ago. In 2017, officials selected TF Cornerstone’s proposal, which included 1,000 units of housing (25 percent of which would be affordable), 100,000 square feet of industrial space, 400,000 square feet of commercial space, a new 600-seat school, retail space, and an acre of open space along the waterfront.
This proposal—which would require a rezoning—seems to be the basis going forward, but developers have learned a thing or two from the Amazon controversy. Noting that a disengaged process and protests from local residents and politicians ultimately doomed the Amazon deal, any plans for the site moving forward will go through the city’s public review process, Politico reported.
“We’ve learned a lot from the Amazon experience. I think what we’ve learned is that there’s a huge opportunity in Long Island City to attract innovation jobs, open up the waterfront,” Jeremy Shell, a principal at TF Cornerstone, told Politico. “We want to look at the plan comprehensively, and we need to put the community goals first.”
As part of the appeal to community concerns, developers said that any housing element would focus on affordability. “I don’t think we’re looking to build expensive, waterfront condos,” said MaryAnne Gilmartin of L&L MAG, a development partner on one of the sites. “This is not a condo play.”
We don’t have clear insights into how big a role residential development will play in the project, but it might end up being less than originally planned for. “We also have heard that we have quite a bit of housing and many people have expressed that they’d like to see more commercial uses and job opportunities,” Shell noted.
A consultant hired by the developers estimated that the project could yield 50,000 new jobs over a decade. That number doubles what Amazon promised the city in exchange for substantial tax breaks.
City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson echoed the call for a “vigorous, community-driven process,” per Van Bramer’s written statement. Both are seeking higher offices over the coming years and, as Politico noted, are aware that polling showed a majority of local residents supported the Amazon deal and the jobs it promised.
Sources told Politico that Plaxall, a family-owned company, has yet to participate in the discussions. The firm’s managing director, Paula Kirby, said they “remain committed to pursuing a vision that builds on LIC’s history as a center of innovation and creativity, and to working with our neighbors and the city on a plan to make Anable Basin an integral part of the future LIC waterfront.”
Meanwhile, Amazon has been pursuing a different expansion in NYC. Sources have said the online shopping giant has been eyeing sites in Maspeth and at or near Brooklyn’s Industry City for new logistics facilities, in addition to real estate shopping for office space in Manhattan. So far, no leases have been confirmed.