Feb. 24, 2020
Letter to the Editor: By Justin Potter (former state senate candidate) and Michael Guippone
We write in response to the February 6, 2020 letter from representatives of various organizations regarding the ongoing YourLIC development process for the Anable Basin site. Both of us have young children and live with our families in Long Island City and a short walk from the Anable Basin site, so we consider ourselves members of the community for which these organizations purport to speak.
We hope to remain here long term, but are worried about rising housing costs. We are also deeply concerned about the climate crisis. We see Anable Basin as an opportunity to address both matters.
We take issue with the statement made in the letter that, “most community members will oppose new private development—particularly the high-rise, mostly market rate residential towers and expensive office buildings that are likely to be built under the current scenario.”
On the contrary, we—community members—believe that it is in the best interest of people who live and work in Long Island City (and for New York City as a whole) for the Anable Basin site to include high-rise market rate residential towers, in addition to various other amenities that the community has been requesting through the YourLIC process.
The New York City metro region is in desperate need of housing. According to the NYC Department of Planning, the region’s “housing supply has not been keeping up with job growth in recent years.” That is, from 2009 to 2018, the region added 0.5 units of housing for every new job, down from 2.2 units per job from 2001 to 2008, and continuing down this path would “heighten affordability challenges and create headwinds to further business growth.”
Development of dense housing in the form of market rate residential towers in the Anable Basin site would do much to alleviate the extreme housing crunch facing this region.
The well-worn criticisms that market rate apartments would exacerbate the affordable housing crisis in this city are, in reality, dubious economics. Although it is likely true that any new market rate units will be expensive given the current scarcity of housing in New York City, according to economists at the W.E. Upjohn Institute (a private, not-for-profit, nonpartisan, independent research organization), because the families moving into the new market rate units “filter” out of older housing, these new units will lower demand for existing housing by freeing up apartments in below-median and bottom-quin-tile income tracts in the short term. New construction of market rate apartments has been shown to lower rents in the local area as well as the larger region.
Moreover, new housing at the Anable Basin site is good climate policy. Transportation is now the biggest source of America’s CO2 emissions. By contrast, one of Long Island City’s greatest assets is its accessibility to other areas of the City via the subway, bus, ferry or LIRR. Every increase in supply of housing in Long Island City means that more families can live here and use public transit to get around, as opposed to moving out of the city where those families might be forced to rely on private cars. Indeed, households in the suburbs have dramatically higher carbon footprints than households in the City, partly for this reason. To take just one example, the average annual household carbon footprint in Great Neck is 72.5 metric tons CO2 equivalent, compared to just 31.6 in Long Island City. Studies have shown that extensive sub-urbanization of metropolitan areas leads to net increases in carbon emissions. That is to say, a denser and more populated Long Island City would help combat climate change.
Development led by private developers with community input can be enormously successful. For example, Essex Crossing is a developer-led project that sought community input at the outset, much as YourLIC is doing now. The Essex Crossing development, which is near completion on the Lower East Side, creates 1,079 new apartments, more than half permanently designated for low- and middle-income tenants; plus community benefits like a new senior center, spaces for early childhood education programs and workforce development, a new cafe operated as a nonprofit job training site for local at-risk youth, and a large market.
The Anable Basin site presents a tremendous opportunity to build resources to serve our community for decades to come. No doubt a project as successful as Essex Crossing would be welcomed by many Long Island City residents.