Deputy Mayor Lieber Breaks Ground on $76.4 Million Infrastructure Improvements in Long Island City
Construction Begins on Queens Plaza Streetscape Project; Jackson Avenue Improvements Underway
Projects Will Improve Traffic Flow,
Enhance Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety, and Provide Attractive Gateway to Queens
Supporting Central Business Districts is a Critical Component of the City’s Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan
Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert C. Lieber today announced $76.4 million in new infrastructure improvements in Long Island City that will transform the primary entrance to Queens from a tangled web of roads that are difficult for vehicles, bicycles and pedestrians to navigate into an appealing gateway and center for commercial, residential and retail development. Deputy Mayor Lieber was joined by Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, Assemblymember Michael Gianaris, Long Island City BID Executive Director Gayle Baron, Community Board 1 Chair Joe Conley, New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) President Seth W. Pinsky, City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden, and Department of Parks & Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe.
The event took place at a former commuter parking lot at Queens Plaza North which, as a result of the project, will become a portion of a 1.5-acre landscaped signature open space. The project will complement the nearby Jackson Avenue Streetscape Project which began in fall 2008 and will be completed in fall 2010. The $76.4 million projects are funded with $23.7 million in City Capital, $19.7 million in Federal money, and $33 million in Federal stimulus-related funds. Upon their completion by the end of 2011, the two projects will have created more than 1,700 construction-related jobs.
“Making investments in infrastructure and streetscape today in order to set the stage for growth is a critical component of our Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan,” said Deputy Mayor Lieber. “We’re taking steps today that not only create jobs, but also go further to transform Long Island City’s business district and attract continued private investment in the long term. I’d like to especially thank Congresswoman Maloney for her work in Washington helping to make this project a reality.”
“The $52.7 million in federal funds dedicated to the renovation of Queens Plaza will do more to change the character of Long Island City than any other government investment in a generation,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “The improvements planned for Queens Plaza will replace traffic snarls, frightening crossing area, and a forbidding landscape with green spaces, improved traffic conditions, and a more pedestrian-friendly environment. The private sector has made western Queens one of New York’s great business districts. I am proud to be teaming up with Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor Lieber, and the Long Island City Business Improvement District to turn Queens Plaza into a welcoming gateway to the flourishing residential and business district.”
Phase I of the Queens Plaza Streetscape Improvement Project extends from Queens Plaza North to Queens Plaza South and from Northern Boulevard/Queens Plaza East to 21st Street. The project will realign and rationalize the traffic network, enhance the environment for pedestrians and bicyclists, and improve the streetscape with new sidewalks and curbs, plantings, and widened, landscaped medians, as well as improved lighting. It will also create a 1.5-acre open space with artist-designed benches and pavers, and a continuous protected bikeway and pedestrian walkway. Phase II will continue improvements from 21st Street to the East River at Vernon Boulevard.
The adjacent Jackson Avenue project, which started construction last fall, is creating a new landscaped median along the corridor and enhancing the streetscape with new sidewalks, lighting, furniture and other amenities. The project is also redesigning and expanding four triangle-shaped open spaces around Court Square with landscaping and seating. Both projects will feature native plantings that are non-invasive and low maintenance. More than 500 new trees will also be planted as a result of these projects.
“Queens Plaza is the front door to the borough of Queens,” said Queens Borough President Marshall, “That’s why today’s announcement of infrastructure improvements, new lighting and landscaping is especially important. Despite a challenging economy, Long Island City has become a mecca for new housing, hotels and retail activity. The plan announced today will capitalize on this growth and make the area even more attractive to new businesses and tenants and put the area on a clear course for future development. I am happy to lend my support to these efforts and thank the Bloomberg Administration and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for this multimillion-dollar makeover that will transform this community.”
Landscape design for the Queens Plaza Street Improvements is by Wallace Roberts & Todd LLC. Landscape design for the Jackson Avenue project was undertaken by Stantec Consulting Service. Contracting for both projects is provided by Triumph Construction, and LiRo Engineers and HRD are resident engineers for the Queens Plaza, and Jackson Avenue project, respectively.
“Queens Plaza is in need of improvement for reasons related to both traffic flow and appearance. I am pleased to witness the groundbreaking of changes that will make it a safer and more beautiful place,” said Assemblymember Michael Gianaris. “As a result of these changes, residents, businesses and commuters alike will benefit from landscaped open spaces, safer paths for pedestrians and cyclists, and re-aligned traffic patterns that will improve the flow of vehicles over the Queensboro Bridge.”
“Queens is experiencing a cultural and economic renaissance, and the new Queens Plaza will help continue to fuel that,” said Councilmember Eric Gioia. ”These street improvements will make Queens Plaza safer for commuters and pedestrians – along with continuing to beautify the neighborhood. We need livable communities, where people can both live and work, and Long Island City is fast becoming the model.”
“The projects we’re announcing today are further proof of the ongoing transformation of Long Island City into the City’s fourth largest central business district,” said NYCEDC President Pinsky. “With corporate tenants like Citigroup, the UN Federal Credit Union, and MetLife, critical developments projects like the 21-story Gotham Center, which is under construction, and these much-anticipated infrastructure improvements, the area will be even more inviting to businesses, residents and visitors alike. I want to thank our partners at the Department of City Planning, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Transportation for their continued commitment to these important projects.”
City Planning Commissioner Amanda M. Burden said, “These two greening initiatives will beautify and strengthen Long Island City as a premier business district, as a residential community and as a cultural center. The new Queens Plaza Park will transform an ocean of asphalt into a lush green oasis at the heart of Long Island City. It will provide safe pedestrian crossings where they are now treacherous, as well as an array of benches, lighting, and plantings to make this an inviting and well-used public open space. Along Jackson Avenue, the principal spine of Long Island City, tree-lined sidewalks, new lighting, plentiful plantings and seating will greatly improve this important corridor, which has already experienced significant private investment.”
LICBID Executive Director Gayle Baron said, “The $76.4 million in capital improvements will enhance the ongoing transformation of Long Island City. Building upon all the other development underway in the area, Long Island City will become an attractive, welcoming gateway to Queens and Manhattan, allowing it to reach its full potential as NYC’s fourth Central Business District.”
The projects are located in the heart of the Long Island City business district, one of the City’s best opportunities to provide capacity for the City’s growing demand for affordable office space. The district was rezoned in 2001 to allow for high density, mixed-use development. Long Island City is already home to a number of corporate tenants, including Citigroup, MetLife and the UN Federal Credit Union. Gotham Center, a 3.5-million-square-foot commercial development, is currently under construction on the site of the former Queens Plaza Municipal Garage, which was an eyesore in the community for many years. The first phase of the project, the 21-story Two Gotham Center, will house a significant number of the City’s Heath Department employees when completed in late 2011.
Nearby, the City recently acquired a 30-acre site from the State of New York and the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey to develop Hunter’s Point South, the largest workforce housing development to be built in New York since the 1970s. Ultimately, the project will encompass 5,000 residential units, 60 percent of which will be affordable to moderate and middle-income families, more than 10 acres of waterfront parkland, new neighborhood retail, community space and a new 1,200-seat school. When combined with Long Island City’s close proximity to Midtown Manhattan and its accessibility to seven subway lines and numerous bus routes, these new developments and streetscape improvements will serve to attract new businesses and residents to the area.
About the Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan
The Five Borough Economic Opportunity Plan is a comprehensive strategy to bring New York City through the current economic downturn as fast as possible. It focuses on three major areas: creating jobs for New Yorkers today, implementing a long-term vision for growing the city's economy, and building affordable, attractive neighborhoods in every borough. Taken together, the initiatives that the City has launched to achieve these goals will generate thousands of jobs and put New York City on a path to economic recovery and growth.