2006-01-25 / Editorials

Queens Thrives Under Bloomberg Economic Policy

There are signs that 2006 could be a boom year for the Queens economy with Long Island City leading the way as the steady growth in that area of the borough appears poised to reach new heights.

Other parts of the county are also due to prosper as Manhattan developers and real estate companies are also capitalizing on more favorable zoning and lower costs to shift their energies here.

The new wave of activity has also enticed major architectural firms to leave their Manhattan haunts and get involved in projects here.

Meanwhile, major plans to redevelop the Flushing area center on plans for construction of the new Shea Stadium, that will see shovels go into the ground by springtime.

Also in the Flushing area, the Willets Point auto junkyards, a major redevelopment target of both the Bloomberg administration and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, will also move along as the city selects a developer from among those responding to a request for proposals.

Much of the credit for the surge in Long Island City development goes to the Bloomberg administration which, early in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s first term, enacted a new mixed zoning designation for Long Island City which gave builders more freedom to create projects containing both commercial and residential elements.

The administration was focused on developing Long Island City into a major business and commercial district as part of a strategy to divert development from Manhattan to the other boroughs and create job opportunities there.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall brought her office’s energies to help the mayor’s initiatives along. Local business owners and proprietors banded together to form the Long Island City Business Improvement District (BID) and support the mayor’s efforts.

Among early signs of success of the mayor’s policy was the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company’s decision to renovate a former automobile manufacturing building and move 1,000 workers into it five years ago. Other aspects of the commercial development plan for the area have followed, spurred by city, state, and federal grants.

Major residential developments, which will balance the ongoing commercial improvements, are beginning to make their presence felt. One of these is the conversion of a former Eagle Electric factory into an eight-story, 237-unit residential building. Another is a planned 34-story, 160-unit residential tower at 45-46 Pearson St., groundbreaking for which is scheduled to take place within the next three months.

These welcome additions to the area are made possible through builders taking advantage of the high-density, mixed-use zoning which make the projects economically feasible. Long Island City’s closeness to Manhattan is also a good selling point for the neighborhood.

The new zoning has also laid the groundwork for a major commercial tenant coming into the Court Square area from Manhattan—the United Nations Federal Credit Union, which will occupy about half of a 16-story building. Across the street from a new Citigroup tower already under construction, it’s expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of the year.

Also in Long Island City, the Rockrose Development Corporation and Silvercup Studios have engaged top-of-the-line architectural firms to design new buildings.

Rockrose, which has already built luxury towers in Queens West, has chosen the Miami-based Arquitectonica architectural firm to design another tower in Queens West and Silvercup has hired famed London architect Sir Richard Rogers to design Silvercup Studios West near its original studio. Silvercup Studios West is the Englishman’s first project in New York City.

The spread of mixed-use zoning is also behind construction of a major new development in Downtown Flushing called Flushing Commons, which features 500 apartments, a youth center, a movie theater, a hotel and retail shops.

This mini-building boom in Long Island City and Flushing has come about because of the creative zoning championed by Mayor Bloomberg to spur commercial development and create jobs in the boroughs. The city’s electorate recognized this when he was returned to office last November, as did the Gazette in endorsing him for re-election. The mayor has promised to continue pressing on with his effort to make the boroughs more development-friendly and we’re solidly behind him in this endeavor. It can only lead to an improved quality of life and environment throughout our borough.

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