Over the last two months various cheerleaders and detractors have stated their cases as to why they are for/against the Waterfront Master Plan. The latter group seems to be spearheaded by Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer on behalf of various groups created during HQ2, aka the Amazon Naysayers. The cheerleaders are a seemingly disparate collection of voices looking to bless the Plan exactly as it is, let’s call them the Amazon Apologists.
Well Amazon isn’t coming to LIC, and neither is its 25,000 jobs. I think most would agree that the Naysayers are fully responsible for that. While that is a terrible shame, more now than ever, it is completely irrelevant in terms of assessing how much and what type of upzoning should be allowed now. It certainly does not mean completely unfettered approval of the full density, developer-friendly amenity package put forth in the initial Plan.
Yet there is a preordained feeling one gets in reading the editorials by the Apologists advocating for keeping the plan exactly as is. given that there’s not a single objection whatsoever. Leaving one to imagine that if the developers had doubled the size of the proposed buildings they still would get the rubber stamp. No thought was given to the density, just build baby build. Which I guess is a little bit understandable given that the Apologists I’ve read don’t actually live in Hunters Point to the best of my knowledge. The Queensbridge/Ravenswood group is all about jobs, the rest of their argument seems like filler to me with each of the developer’s additional talking points highlighted.
On the other end of the Apologist spectrum is an editorial in The Daily News, written by a young Fellow named Alex Armlovich who just finished a 7-year stint at the Manhattan Institute. The editorial may or may not have been part of the PR given that it too does not mention a single fault with the initial Plan. Delve a little deeper – as in do a quick google search – and one finds that the Manhattan Institute describes itself as “A leading free-market think tank focusing on economic growth…” A little deeper and it’s wiki entry adds the modifier “conservative” before “think-tank” as well as 501c-3 – which means it solicits contributions. Oh, and the Chairman is Paul Singer and Rebekah Mercer is on its board. I’m just sayin’ (and stirring).
As readers may have intuited over the years I’m kind of a free-markets guy too, but I also like to play devil’s advocate. Thus in channeling my inner-libertarian, and keeping in mind that any upzoning whatsoever makes the property worth more than it is currently, my question to Alex (and the Manhattan Institute) is “What zoning changes would Ayn Rand think the government should give the developers?”
As for the Naysayers, in the ensuing year following HQ2 they came up with zero alternatives to replace both the lost jobs and a development that would have been very beneficial for Long Island City. Reflexively they then put forward a response to the initial YourLIC Plan that in aggregate makes zero sense economically. More so than ever post-Covid. There simply needs to be an expected profitable return for the developers/owners, and the best outcome for the parcel as a whole, from a community standpoint, almost certainly requires not treating the publicly owned portion in isolation. Without responding with reasonable requests the private properties will then be developed piece-meal, and the public ones to whatever the city deems their current priority to be. Typifying the financial absurdity, is a bullet point stating the city should buy the Lake Vernon site for open space and environmental resiliency. It’s asinine to propose the city pay top dollar for prime waterfront real estate – because I believe it already has a pretty substantial as-of right1, or maybe you’re suggesting invoking eminent domain?
So there you have it, the developers asked for the world and the Apologists rubberstamped it, while the Naysayers want utopia.
Then there’s the actual people who live in Hunters Point. They don’t hold protests or write editorials, and are way too harried around dinner time to even attend meetings. Plus their requests are too pedestrian for the media to cover: less crowded subways, subway platforms, and roads; adequate school capacity and adequate recreational facilities given both the recent growth and expected growth in the neighborhood. Nothing over the top by any means. By adequate recreational facilities, I don’t mean those too far to walk to, or the need to drive, and more open space is for the new developments, we have plenty in Hunters Point already and Court Square/Queens Plaza is a lost cause2
So here’s what I propose as a compromise between The Apologists and The Naysayers:
- 5.5 Citi Towers total – v. 8-8.5 requested, and the developers have free reign to whack them up any way they want to: resi/commercial/retail
- A dedicated # of jobs going to The Coalition in Queensbridge/Ravenswood
- A fully built out Rec Center in the middle of Hunters Point on either the Rockaway Brewing site or the Plaxall Parking Lot that has a long term lease consisting solely of pass-through expenses. Also a guarantee of significant membership discounts for Queensbridge/Ravenswood residents, say 50%?
- All the other bells and whistles already included that may or may not really be needed to attract new tenants anyway: Anable Basin Bridge, 7 Acres Open Space, 3 schools, cultural allotments, etc. etc.
The above is called a negotiation, which has been shown to be very useful in actually getting things done. If that is what your goal is.
Van Bramer Rips Latest Development Plan At Old Amazon Site – so come up with a reasonable counterplan
Naysayer List of Demands – we could also go back to living in caves
NYCHA Tenant Leaders: Where Amazon Never Arrived, New Opportunity Arises – development of these 28 acres will have a de minimis effect north of the bridge, if you want real change Raze Queensbridge
Say Yes to LIC Development: NYC Must Salvage The Plots Intended For Amazon’s HQ2 – salvage maybe, giveaway no
- a pair of 30-story towers [↩]
- proving that if you don’t get it right on the first go, it’s tough to reverse. Keep that in mind vis-a-vis subway overcrowding too [↩]