2016-03-09 / Front Page

CB 2 Meeting Discusses Development

By Thomas Cogan
During the public comment segment of March’s Community Board 2 meeting at Sunnyside Community Services, speaker Miguel Taranto complained about a few proposals and projects in the district, including construction of a multi-story hotel on a site whose air rights were sold to the developer by the Long Island City YMCA.  There’s no need for it, he said.  A few minutes later, a proposed Board of Standards and Appeals application about just that YMCA and hotel was brought up for discussion and became the main event of the evening.  A complicated explanation followed about how the Y was built in the 1990s and, through a zoning change and a variance that permitted further building, found itself with over 200,000 square feet of space it could build with (partially) or sell (totally). 

It might have built something community-oriented, with accessory parking, but the Y chose instead to sell it all to an adjacently-located developer that wanted to build a hotel and fulfill its own community-oriented obligation by building a medical facility on the top floors.  Into the bargain was the assurance that those top floors would be quite high, since the developer had a 6.5 floor area ratio (FAR) to play around with, 2.0 of it for commercial space and 4.5 for community space, i.e., the medical facility, which according to estimates would be 15,000 square feet large and situated at an excellent height that would provide largely unimpeded views for miles in every direction and could thus attract high-end medical personnel and affluent clientele.  But it didn’t strike the board in general as a facility to enhance the life of the community in the vicinity of Van Dam Street and La Guardia Community College. 

Paul Custer, senior vice president of government affairs for the YMCA of Greater New York, said the sale was made by the Y to Carlton Properties, which is to build the hotel at 32-35 Queens Blvd., near the Long Island City Y at 32-23.  The sale price was $1.9 million, of which the Long Island City branch would get $250,000.  Community Board 2 Chairman Patrick O’Brien said to him and Eric Palatnik, the attorney representing Greater New York Y and the developer, “The one thing this community doesn’t need is another hotel.”  He said that its construction, with the additional fact that it would as a result of the sale be much larger than originally planned—three times the initial size, according to the board’s Steve Cooper, whose assertion was not disputed—would only assure the further erosion of the area’s industrial facilities and further cram the already crowded Rawson/33rd Street station on the No. 7 line. 

O’Brien wondered why nobody from Carlton Properties bothered to come to the meeting, but Palatnik didn’t think such representation absolutely necessary.  Custer said the quarter-million gained in the sale by the Long Island City Y was being used to build greater locker space there.  Comparing LIC’s share with the $1.7 million gained by the YMCA of Greater New York he said, “We want the Long Island City Y to remain healthy but we also want the organization to be healthy.”

When it was time for the land use committee to make its report, the first order of business was an application pertaining to a house in the Sunnyside landmark district at 41-04 47th St., where the owners wanted to make certain alterations.  The committee had unanimously given its approval for the alteration and the full board unhesitatingly followed.  On the BSA application by the Long Island City Y the committee was also unanimous, but in disapproval.  The motion to the board was to approve what the committee had done.  Cooper commented that a chic medical facility where wealthy patients would enjoy hot rocks and pliant docs was of no value to the community, as it was supposed to be; and additionally, it would be built atop an unwanted hotel.  Noting that the developer, building as of right, could put up an office building instead, he said that a thousand employees arriving and departing daily at the Rawson/33rd Street Station might be even worse.  Again the board vote was unanimous and also in disapproval.  A BSA hearing on the matter was to be held Tuesday, March 8.

Earlier in the evening, City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer was present to announce that Jason Banrey, his media man and also representative at CB 2 meetings, would soon be leaving, to become deputy Queens commissioner for the Department of Transportation.  Banrey, who has worked with Van Bramer for most or all the six years the councilman has been in office, said he has always wanted to be in political life.  His successor at CB 2 meetings is Kenny Medrano, who said he is “super happy” to have his new position.       



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