2018-06-27 / Front Page

Queens Chamber Of Commerce Holds Annual Business Expo At CitiField

By Thomas Cogan

The Queens Chamber of Commerce held its annual Business Expo at Citifield last week.  There were tables as usual for Queens business companies to maintain while they met customers face to face.  It was noisy and well-attended.  The transportation meeting preceded the business exhibits and was forward-looking without glossing over the difficulties of moving in that direction.  It was a four-person panel comprising the president of the New York City Transit Authority; the general manager of La Guardia Airport; a former New York City Economic Development Corporation president; and the president of Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association (GNYADA).

Tom Grech, president of the chamber, moderated the transportation panel.  He turned first to Andy Byford, president of the New York City Transit Authority since this past January.  He had been head of the Toronto transit system for more than 10 years  and before that was an official in both underground and surface rail in his native England.  With all the lamentations about the state of New York’s subways, what, Grech asked, can be done for transit?  Byford said it’s a big job just holding the system together with such aging equipment and ancient infrastructure.  An all-out modernization of the subways is a necessity and all transit employees must be “pulling at once.”

He found an aging transit infrastructure in Toronto also, but it dates back only to 1954, while the New York system in its oldest places is older than that by a half-century.  But then, there are parts of the London Underground that are more than 40 years older even than that.  The London system in general was in terrible shape 15 years ago, Byford said, but is now amazingly up to date.

Grech turned to Seth Pinsky, a member of the NYCEDC for several years and its president during Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s final term.  These days he is an executive vice president of RXR Realty, which has much to do with refurbishing John F. Kennedy International Airport, which needs a lot of it.  Pinsky said that JFK has fallen to 22nd place among international airports for volume of traffic and its cargo trade has declined seriously.  Passenger numbers are nevertheless going up (by 10 million in the past decade) but without an increase in the number of airplanes or flights.  Doing more with less is difficult, but it’s being done. 

He said that work on the hotel that was the Trans-World Airlines terminal, and which is now to be connected to Terminal 5, continues.  It’s a way to establish hotel space within the airport instead of merely on the outskirts of it, a practice New York is only getting around to while airports elsewhere have done it for years, he said.  And there are more examples of building new from old:  the former British Airways building is being converted into the new Terminal 7, and greater efficiency and attractiveness should be the result for passengers who have been looking at an aged airport for a long time.

Pinsky praised the public-private partnership established between JFK and both Vantage Travel and Jet Blue Airlines in relation to these ventures.  He said he does not believe P-P-P is perfect (he said he could think of some bad examples, though he didn’t identify them) but at its best it allows private industry to bring innovation into the project but also face the fact that in public construction, cost overruns sometimes have to be borne. 

Meanwhile, the airport Vice President Biden scornfully called “third world” is booming.  Lysa Scully said $4 million in construction is going on daily at La Guardia, while traffic is heavier than it has ever been before.  A garage for 3,100 vehicles was opened this year and a flyover will be completed in July, she said.  It is designed to ease vehicle entry to the airport and increase the convenience of travel for passengers.  The new Delta terminal project, hailed by Governor Andrew Cuomo when he visited the airport and viewed construction of it last August, has run into delays, Scully admitted.  Still, she’s confident it will be completed by 2024 as expected.  She expressed gratitude to the governor for his constant interest and advocacy.

Scheinberg of GNYADA began by saying that technology dominates our lives now and has made its way into our automobiles.  Attracting young persons to automotive maintenance is not as easy as it used to be, but to those he does recruit he says that there’s more technology in current cars than there was in 1960s space ships. 

He said his audience might be surprised to know that the three-state area of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey is the busiest care sales sector in the U.S., outdoing sales in any part of California, Texas or Florida.  Auto shows are still big here also, he said.  The most recent one at the Javits Center drew a million attendees in three days.  He also had an opinion about private-public partnerships, calling them important for building relationships that were simply not considered feasible years ago.

Byford came back to talk about signaling and accessibility.  He said that another Andy, the New York governor, said the subway system was riddled with grave problems.  Andy the transit man said he would address them by transforming the subway to reflect its status in the world.  He would also reinvigorate the bus system, since buses have fallen off in favor but still can be rescued.  He called them accessible

by comparison to subway and elevated trains.  He would change the culture inside transit, believing that workers and passengers deserve better consideration. 

Delivering on time for both projects and budgets is also important to him. 

He called his re-signaling plan a radical one that would take just 10 years if more than one line could be refitted at once.  He also brought up a proposal advanced by others at times but thus far always doomed to be ignored:  revision of the 24-hour schedule that New York has enjoyed, so to speak, for just about all of the subway system’s 114-year existence.  He said there would be gain from the pain of loss with the availability of unimpeded hours to make repairs and conduct maintenance.  One crying need, more elevators, could more easily be met with sufficient time to address it.  His goal is to have no more than two consecutive stations between those with elevators. 

He said that the system’s 372 stations will have 22 managers (about one manager for every 17 stations) charged with keeping them in proper shape.  He did not want “to see handwritten signs or filth” in any of them.

Some final observations were interesting.  Lysa Scully talked about something that has been in the air for years.  La Guardia Airport is just eight miles from Manhattan but does not have direct train service to and from it, she said.  It’s imperative to make a feasibility study of it.  With the Terminal B project due for completion in 2022 and the Delta complex due in 2024, she thought it would be nice to have at least the promise of a half-hour train ride between airport and city to go with them.  Mark Scheinberg of GNYADA said that the automobile industry shouldn’t be considered a rival to public transit.  A cohesive relationship between them is necessary, he said.

And Andy Byford said that the billions in funds that come transit’s way are sometimes not even necessary, if better organization and performance can be realized without them, as he believes they can.  He also said that as a basis for revenue he is inclined toward bond issues and even that specter haunting New York, congestion pricing.  

At the Business Expo, the first of the afternoon meetings was called Energy and Sustainability and held in a Citifield meeting room.  It was moderated by Marshall Haimson of E-Capital Insurances Services, who began by asking Terry McGee, section manager of demonstration products at Consolidated Edison, about sustainability at the utility level.  McGee spoke of Energy Plan ’30, calling it transformational.  She said Con Ed has a demonstration project, a Web portal with analytics, sustainability connecting with business and acting as a conduit to vendors.  It offers data giving customers power plans to choose from.  Haimson said it’s a plan that has “already left the station and is speeding down the track.”

Ted Rodormer, in sales and sustainability for East Coast Energy, talked about showing skeptical customers how they can actually save energy.  He said ECE is “in your meter.”  As a vendor it is one of a rare few, he said, submitting estimates to customers, whose expenses are driven by several forces.  It’s imperative to lock in the commodity at the beginning when dealing with a customer.  He said he can show building owners how to get a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) plaque.

The meeting was held on June 21, the summer solstice, which Mike Bailis called his favorite day, since if it’s a sunny day it will be the sunniest day of the year.  (After morning rain, the sun shone brightly.)  Bailis, co-founder and chief sales officer of Sun Nation Solar Systems, said in 15 years much has changed.  The 2017 approval by the New York Power Authority of the first phase of the Value of Distributive Energy Resources (VDER) order was monumental, allowing similar deployment of solar energy, whatever its final use may be.  Batteries are still “in infancy,” but the years to come will see great gains, he said, and local grasp of energy will advance.  He also had an exhortation for the audience:  “Sun energy—what are you waiting for?”

Dan Audette, senior energy engineer for Energy Tax Savers, began with the news that the new tax code lines up well with the desires of local businesses.  Tax incentives include a 30 percent tax credit for installing solar energy, which from that point has approximately an eight-year life.   There are tax credits for geothermal energy, and upstate New York leads the way.  One hundred percent new equipment can bring considerable tax advantages, he added.  For instance, purchasing $100 thousand in new equipment can mean a federal tax credit of $30,000.  A bonus tax depreciation can bring another $16,000. 

On outdoor lighting, he said to put in light-emitting diodes (LED) and get a total write-off on retrofitting the outdoor system.  A 100 percent retroactive benefit is available to building owners, architects and engineers who made certain improvements to their buildings during the time the 179d tax deduction was in effect.  It was initiated at the beginning of 2006 and retired at the end of 2017.  

Ben Pickard, principal U.S. energy analyst, National Grid Ventures (NGV) said his company would be changing a lot in the next 20 years.  It has already entered into a district energy partnership with Sun Run, relative to 600 megawatts of wind energy off the coast of New England.  He said he was surprised by the customer selection of what power to use and what to store.

Haimson closed the meeting with a quote he admitted stealing from a friend:  “Where there’s an ROI”—return on investment—“there’s a way.”

The second meeting in the Citifield meeting room covered the topic of real estate and was titled Why Queens?  Why now?    By Queens, read Long Island City; it seems that was all the panelists were interested in.  Lisa Gahn, national director of sales at Nationwide Title Agency, moderated the presentation.  She lately participated in Google’s multi-billion-dollar purchase of Chelsea Market.   Jake Elghanayan, senior vice president, TF Cornerstone, and Paula Kirby, managing director at Plaxall, began by stating their companies’ origins:  TFC having been begun by Elghanayan’s father and uncle in the early 1970s and  Plaxall by Kirby’s father, who moved to Long Island City from the Midwest in the 1940s. 

The TFC project in Hunters Point South stands by the new ferry slip.  Plaxall owns 12 acres of the 15-acre special district around Anable Basin, the created inlet on the East River.  Kirby said that 7 percent of Plaxall’s interest will go to creating “production light industrial” manufacturing and 25 percent of the residential high-rise buildings will provide “affordable” rents.  Elghanayan said he likes his building to be in the shadow of Manhattan, which he called the leading city of the 20th century.  He also said that TFC headed a huge brownfields clean-up of land along the East River, though above the Hunters Point South site.

The two expressed concern for mama & papa stores and their ability to survive, along with artists, in the costly, gentrificational atmosphere of these new neighborhoods.  Kirby did say that in one Plaxall building, artists seem to have adopted the space into a community center of sorts.  Yet she also said that artists are the first to make a neighborhood cool and the first to be evicted from it.  She hoped that some of the Cornell Technion industries being developed on Roosevelt Island will move to Long Island City, though she didn’t indicate how that might be beneficial to artists and small shopkeepers.

Brett Cooper, vice president, assets management at Kimco Realty, said among the hot items making a buzz are the 60-year-old company he works for and E-companies too.  Mama & papa are what’s not hot and he wondered what could be done about that.  Meanwhile, Nassau County-based Kimco owns so many shopping centers it can sell 21 of them at once, as it did earlier this year.  Cooper added that a large percentage of owned property consists of parking lots. Likely thinking of Long Island City, he said he looks askance at national tenants, who don’t tend to be involved in the communities around them.

Ohmer Mir Ahmed, an acquisitions and development specialist at Seagis Property Group, a Pennsylvania-based enterprise, described it as limited to building warehouses.  He said that as far as

Seagis is concerned, Long Island City could be a good storage area for stuff formerly stored in Manhattan.  He saw two things on the rise, E-commerce and interest rates.  He welcomed the latter, though Elghanayan did not, being as he is in a debt-dependent business.  







Return to top

Copyright 1999-2019 The Service Advertising Group, Inc. All rights reserved.