Feb. 1, 2024 By Iryna Shkurhan
The state selected Long Island City as the recipient of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, awarding the booming neighborhood $10 million to invest in economic development.
Business leaders and local elected officials gathered at Brewster LIC, a historic building in Queens Plaza now home to JetBlue headquarters, on Thursday to hear the announcement. Secretary of State Robert Rodriguez, on behalf of Governor Hochul, also publicized that Hudson Square in Lower Manhattan will receive $4.5 million from a newer economic development program, NY Forward.
The award stems from an application drafted by the Long Island City Partnership, which works to bring new business and retain existing ones, this past summer. After an interview process, the organization was selected to receive the funding. It is unclear exactly how the funds will be used at this point.
“We know that when we invest in communities, they flourish,” said Rodriguez. “What we’ve seen here in this community is amazing transformation over the last decade. We recognize that there’s a rich industrial legacy here in Long Island City that remains very productive.”
LIC is the fastest growing neighborhood in the city, and some suspect in the entire country, that has welcomed thousands of new residents in recent years. Its population has grown five times faster than the rest of NYC and is considered a prime example of a mixed-use neighborhood.
The neighborhood is also home to two of the largest public housing developments in the country – Ravenswood and Queensbridge Houses – which have not benefited from the growth. Officials noted that they hope to increase connectivity within LIC by revitalizing the neglected areas so that no part of the neighborhood is left behind in the ongoing rapid growth.
“When we talk about this $10 million pot of money, we need to talk about how we can spread it around to where it touches all families,” said Borough President Donovan Richards at the announcement. “There’s a big difference between economic development and community development. This is a real opportunity to make sure we’re having sound investments.”
Richards recalled coming to the corridor decades ago as a child when his father worked for a paper manufacturer. At the time, he said there was “nothing here” except for “a lot of rubble.”
The area has come a long way since then, whether it be in the Queens Plaza or Hunters Point sections of the neighborhood.
Laura Rothrock, the LICP President and executive director of the LIC Business Improvement District, noted that foot traffic along Jackson Avenue has increased more than 300% since 2007, and more than 30 new businesses have opened in the last year alone.
“It’s a really exciting time for Long Island City,” said Rothrock, who spearheaded the application for DRI. “And with the partnership we saw the potential that our community had and the need for this investment. So that’s why we were so honored to put together the application for the DRI.”
Jamaica was selected in the inaugural round of Downtown Revitalization Initiative in 2016, and also received $10 million at the time. This is the second time, over the course of seven rounds with ten recipients across the state each time, that a Queens neighborhood was selected.
Hope Knight, the President, CEO and Commissioner of the state’s economic development agency, Empire State Development, served on the Jamaica Planning Committee during the first round of DRI.
“Community development is about sustainable, and inclusive, economic growth. It’s about creating and cultivating spaces that support residents and invite visitors to establish roots,” said Knight. “It’s about encouraging businesses to locate, grow and invest in a neighborhood.”
Council Member Julie Won, who represents the area, sent a letter of support on the LICP’s DRI application to the governor’s office in September. She attended the announcement and expressed pride that the proposal was able to come into fruition.
“This is an essential investment in Long Island City, especially the parts that have been left behind by disinvestment, including Queensbridge Houses, Ravenswood Houses, and the Industrial Business Zones (IBZ),” said Won. “I have no doubt that LICP will put this to good use to truly connect and bring LIC together, especially our long-standing businesses and new businesses that we have welcomed to our community.”
With the funding now secured, LICP will put together a committee to hear project ideas and review proposals. The state will need to approve the final plan for how the money will be invested.