2012-02-08 / Features

Boomtime For LIC, Astoria

BY LIZ GOFF

Gazette country is growing by leaps and bounds, with seven new towers planned for Hallets Point in Astoria and a dizzying array of developments underway in Long Island City.

Major relocations will bring the offices of the federal Social Security Administration (SSA) and JetBlue Airlines to Dutch Kills, while the City University of New York (CUNY) School of Law prepares to bid adieu to Flushing for new digs at Court Square.

As previously reported in the Gazette, the Queens offices of the federal SSA have signed a lease to occupy approximately 11,000-square-feet of space on the ground floor of the Alma Corporate Headquarters at 31-10 37th Ave. in the heart of the Dutch Kills community in Long Island City.

A spokesperson for Alma Realty said SSA officials are finalizing plans for the office layout and renovations should start in early spring of this year.

The move, scheduled to take place in late 2012, will incorporate SSA offices that were closed in Astoria, Long Island City and Jackson Heights.

JetBlue will be moving its headquarters next month from Forest Hills to the Brewster Building at 27-01 Queens Plaza North, bringing close to 1,000 JetBlue employees into the Long Island City neighborhood each day, according to a company Web site.

City officials are considering a request by JetBlue officials who want to put the airline’s name on the Brewster Building, on a sign similar to the iconic Silvercup sign that lights up the Queens waterfront.

The CUNY School of Law, currently located in Flushing, will occupy the first six floors of 2 Court Square when it moves to Long Island City later this year.

The move will relocate approximately 480 students to the Long Island City building, located in the shadow of the Citigroup Building and within walking distance of the historic Queens Supreme Court building.

The school’s new location will make it easier for students to pursue legal internships throughout the borough and the law students will operate legal clinics for Queens residents at the new site, the spokesperson said.

The owners of a decaying Long Island City warehouse kicked off a series of massive renovations in late 2011 at the building located on 37th Avenue, between 35th and 36th Streets.

According to a city Department of Buildings Web site, owners of the fivestory, 71,606-square-foot building at 37- 06 36th Street have requested approval to change its existing use as a factory/garage into a Commercial Hotel Group.

A spokesperson for the building owner, R Realty LLC, told the Gazette that renovations would continue well into 2012, including installation of new windows, repairs to the sprinkler system, exterior makeover and a major overhaul of the building’s interior.

The spokesperson declined to give details of the planned hotel, but confirmed that it would not be part of a large chain.

“The owners are planning to open a private, boutique hotel at the location,” the spokesperson said. “We want to reassure the community that we are not planning to open a hot-sheet hotel or motel at this location.”

Under new zoning regulations in the area, the building can be converted, “as of right”, for use as a hotel or as residential units.

If the building is converted to a hotel, it will add to Long Island City’s new image as a city hotel hub. The neighborhood now has 17 hotels, with five more under construction or in planning stages.

Construction is underway for a mixed residential/commercial property in Dutch Kills, located between 31st and 32nd Streets, south of 37th Avenue.

Alma Realty is developing the site, which will incorporate residential units above retail space on the ground floor of two buildings adjoined by an atrium and outdoor garden.

A five-story building facing 31st Street will connect with a six-story building on 32nd Street, an Alma spokesperson said. The development, which includes an underground parking facility, will be the first of its kind in the Dutch Kills community.

Partial demolition is underway at a building at 36-08 33rd St. in Dutch Kills, on the site of a former nightclub that caused heated controversy with its residential neighbors.

The building will undergo renovations, including interior redesign, makeover of an interior mezzanine, re- pairs to the sprinkler system, roof, cellar and electric system.

The building owner has not requested a change of use for the building, which indicates its continued use as a restaurant, lounge or nightclub.

An undeveloped patch of land on the Astoria waterfront could soon be transformed into the site of seven residential towers and a supermarket.

The Lincoln Equities Group has revealed plans for a project dubbed “Hallets Point”, with 2,300 residential units and a waterfront park along the East River.

Approximately 1,900 units would be offered at market rate and an additional 400 units would be reserved for affordable housing, city officials said.

The development recently received strong support from the local community, which is in desperate need of amenities offered as part of the package – including a much-needed supermarket.

At least one local lawmaker is questioning plans for the development.

Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. said he would like to see more businesses and amenities in the proposal, along with increased services.

“A project this big would put a drain on the resources of the community,” Vallone said. “Something this large should include amenities like increased sanitation and other essential services.”

Officials at the Dutch Kills Civic Association, an active proponent of rezoning of the Long Island City community, said they are thrilled by new development in the area – especially residential development.

“The rezoning reversed a death sentence that the city wrongly imposed on Dutch Kills in the 1960s,” group President Gerald Walsh said. “New housing brings new neighbors and a new outlook for our community,” Walsh declared.

“It confirms our belief that Dutch Kills is a perfect place to live, work and raise a family.”

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