Group, a blue ribbon panel, recommended to the administration of Mayor David Dinkins that city economic policy relying on business attraction and retention was “misguided” and programs and incentives designed to keep big corporations from moving were “reportedly not essential”. Queens Chamber of Commerce President Louis Theiss immediately fired off a letter to Deputy Mayor for Finance & Economic Development Sally Hernandez-Pinero noting that “from a pure tax standpoint, New York City is still far and away the worst place to live and work”. The city needed more financial incentives such as that offered Jacmel Jewelry, a jewelry manufacturer that moved to Long Island City instead of New Jersey when offered a 30 percent reduction in electricity rates, real estate tax cuts and a $500 tax credit for every job that stayed in New York. The Chamber, Theiss wrote, “cannot feel enthused” about any Dinkins Administration plan that held that tax incentives and inducement programs such as those reducing power costs to industry were not key elements in efforts to fuel an economic surge and renaissance in New York City.
Two mayoral administrations and 21 years later, the climate for businesses of all sizes in New York City and in Queens has changed markedly, and from the standpoint of business operations, much for the better. Jacmel Jewelry’s approximately $6-per-square-foot lease of its quarters at 30-00 47th Ave. has four years to run and so far the company has given no sign of altering the status quo when the lease runs out. Federal Express Ground plans to move its Maspeth headquarters to a new facility in Long Island City in 2013. On April 4 of this year, jetBlue Airlines moved from Forest Hills to new headquarters in the Brewster Building on Queens Plaza, choosing Long Island City over Orlando, Florida. (The Queens District Attorney’s Office is contemplating a move into the former jetBlue offices at 118-35 Queens Blvd. from current quarters at 80-02 Kew Gardens Rd.) Organizations that have moved to Long Island City over the course of the past 10 to 15 years include the United Nations federal Credit Union and City College of New York (CUNY) Law School.
Food preparation operations are also flourishing in Queens in 2012. Although online grocer Fresh Direct is forsaking its Long Island City facility for The Bronx, Amy Scherber, head of Amy’s Bread, located in Manhattan for 20 years, will soon open a baking facility at 34th Street and 48th Avenue. Scherber’s Long Island City purchase, she told a Long Island City Partnership (LICP) real estate breakfast on May 15, gives her a place that’s best for baking bread, with the added advantage that her workers can clock in at midnight and later to make and deliver the wares in the early morning. Restaurateur Sara Obraitis, who has been in the restaurant business in Long Island City since 1999 as coproprietor of M. Wells restaurant, told the LICP meeting that though M. Wells was closed last summer, it is soon to reopen at both 43-15 Crescent St. and P.S. 1, under the same name but offering different cuisines. The first brewery to open in Queens after an absence of such operations for many years, SingleCut Beersmiths will begin brewing craft beers at 19-33 37th St., Astoria later this year. The space will include a tap room with beer tastings and a stage for live musical performances. And a 2010 report noted that with more than 132 nationalities making Queens the most diverse county in the United States, international and domestic franchises find the borough to be the perfect spot for opening new restaurants in the region.
As well as tax incentives and utility deals for businesses of all sizes, small businesses continue to benefit from city agency support. Queens Economic Development Corporation Director of Neighborhood Development Ricardi Calixte said in an online posting January 30 that NYC Business Express, an online business resource center provides an additional tool for entrepreneurs to access information and QEDC provides guidance and training in all stages of business development. “Small businesses are the backbone of a thriving local economy. We must provide the necessary [support] to help new and existing small businesses maximize their capacities to provide needed goods and services,” Calixte declared.