LIC Links Promises A User Friendly Streetscape
Plans are underway to transform Long Island City from a drab, impersonal, traffic-congested enclave to a people-friendly, waterfront neighborhood, and the LIC Links project is designed to make that happen.
LIC Links is part of a large city and state initiative to redevelop the waterfront and a 37-block transit hub located between Queens Plaza and Court Square. Three main goals of the project are reducing vehicular traffic in order to decrease auto emissions that affect air quality, improving the physical environment for bicyclists and pedestrians and enhancing cultural and institutional resources.
City Planner Penny Lee, who is at the forefront of the project, outlined LIC Links at an informational meeting last Friday night. "One of the first things we want to do is create sort of a gateway and an identity," Lee said. "We want to create a systematic landscaping, lighting and street furniture plan to the principal pedestrian streets. On those streets we're probably going to be looking at bicycle paths. To a large extent, LIC Links is cosmetic, in the sense that we're talking about improving the streetscape environment, repaving the streets, repaving the sidewalks, installing lights and installing street furniture."
LIC Links will begin as a yearlong study once federal funding for the project is approved. According to Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, $250,000 has already been earmarked for the project by the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee. "This grant from the federal government represents the majority of the funding needed for the planning of the project," Maloney told the audience in the cafeteria of Citibank at Court Square. "When it gets signed into law, we're going to come back here and have a celebration. This project will make Long Island City a true center for economic and residential growth."
One step toward the Long Island City makeover would be a zoning modification for a 37-block area between Queens Plaza and Court Square, which would change the designation from light manufacturing to mixed-use. The area would encompass a triangular section from 41st Avenue to Jackson Avenue, bordered by 23rd Street and the Sunnyside railroad yards. Rezoning would create a tight-knit pedestrian and transit-oriented district distinguished by a variety of industrial, residential and commercial uses. Last Thursday, a City Council subcommittee chaired by Councilmember Walter McCaffrey approved the zoning plan, which will allow for additional commercial development. The full Council will vote on the zoning change later this month.
McCaffrey was on hand at the informational meeting and pointed out the need for a shuttle system that could transport people better than normal public transportation can. "It's extremely important for us to be able to understand that with the complexity of Long Island City that one of the essential ways of being able to make any development plans work is to be able to know that we can move people in and out of Long Island City, but very importantly, we must be able to move them around Long Island City," McCaffrey said. "So it is necessary for us to develop a plan for unsubsidized loop bus service here."
The councilmember's sentiments were echoed by Lee. "The transit system in Long Island City works primarily to get you either out of the neighborhood or into the neighborhood," Lee said. "But it really doesn't get you around the neighborhood, just in terms of a quick bus or a quick shuttle."
The primary focus of LIC Links will be the establishment of a comprehensive network of pedestrian, bicycle and transit connections between residential and business areas and new parks, retail stores and cultural institutions. Such innovative improvements are expected to help reduce automobile traffic and improve the neighborhood air quality. As a result of LIC Links, it is hoped that economic development will improve as well. "Long Island City is well positioned to attract new media, biotechnology and other businesses critical to the region's economy that have been having difficulty locating or expanding their businesses in Manhattan due to a very tight real estate market," Maloney said.
The New York City Department of City Planning will provide an additional $69,800 of funding to LIC Links, which is part of a more expansive city and state initiative to develop the Long Island City waterfront sector and better serve the 8,000 middle to low income residents and 50,000 people working within the project area. LIC Links will consist of a team of planners, urban design consultants and engineers. Representatives will provide updates at periodic informational meetings during the yearlong study.