Oct. 5, 2020 By Christian Murray
A New York-based real estate company that needs a zoning change in order to construct a 21-story mixed-use building by the Queensboro Bridge got the green light from Community Board 2 Thursday night.
The board’s approval represents a significant step for the development company, which aims to construct a building consisting of 18 stories of office space and 3 stories of industrial space in a desolate section of Long Island City.
The building is planned to go up on Queens Plaza South—between 9th and 10th streets–and would not include any residential units. The developer says that it would bring 1,500 jobs upon completion, with approximately 300-350 of them being in the industrial sector.
A low-rise building is currently on the site that consists of approximately 45,500 square feet of industrial space and 2,400 square feet of commercial space. The building is tenanted by Titan Machine Corp., an elevator company, which is a partner in the project.
The developer, RXR Realty–which is partnering with Titan–requires a zoning text amendment and special permit before it can move forward with the plan. As part of the zoning change, the site needs to be designated an Industrial Business Incentive Area, which provides developers with the ability to construct additional commercial space when it builds industrial space.
The plans call for 70,000 square feet of industrial space spread over the bottom 3 floors, which represents 55 percent more industrial space than what currently exists on the site. The building would include 270,000 square feet of office space and 2,900 square feet of ground floor retail.
“We’re grateful for the support we’ve received from Queens Community Board 2, which will not only preserve but expand the space available for industrial uses,” said Jeffrey Nelson, senior vice president for RXR Realty. “We are excited to partner with Titan on a commercial and industrial project that will signal confidence in New York’s future.”
Community Board 2 overwhelming voted in favor of the plan, noting that the project would bring jobs and there would be no additional apartments.
However, several board members called for the industrial rent to be kept low, given the bonus that RXR and Titan are getting in terms of the office space. The project would be also be located in the Long Island City Industrial Business Zone.
The developers said that they anticipate that the industrial space will average at around $25 per square foot, which they said was comparable to the Brooklyn Navy Yard, which is operated by a non-profit on behalf to the city.
Several board members wanted greater assurance that the industrial rent would be low.
The board then voted to approve the zoning change subject to the developers setting aside 10 percent of the industrial space at $15 per square foot – with a 3 percent annual increase– for 10 years. The space would come with a right of renewal.
The developers said that they aim to activate the local streetscape on Queens Plaza South by 10th Street. There would be 4,500 square feet of public open space with a public art installation. In addition, there would be a five-foot setback to create a 15-foot wide sidewalk along the corridor.
“This is a great example of the type of investment that will buoy Queens on its road to recovery,” said Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership. “We’ve seen so much manufacturing space disappear over the years, so it’s encouraging to see a project reverse that trend.”
RXR, a large real estate company with holdings that include the Standard Motor Products Building at 37-18 Northern Blvd., and Titan have established partnerships with Urban Upbound, a Long Island City based non-profit, and LaGuardia Community College to make sure local residents get jobs at the site.
Urban Upbound will help identify 100 local residents—with a priority given to tenants of Queensbridge Houses—who will trained to enter the construction field.
RXR has also developed a partnership with LaGuardia Community College to train 30 participants in a skilled trade.
The plans for the zoning change were certified by City Planning on Sept. 14 and are going through the public review process. They will now go before the Queens Borough President’s office, the City Planning Commission and City Council over the next six months.
The community board’s approval is merely advisory, although it sends a strong message to Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer who will essentially decide whether the zoning change is approved.