July 8, 2020 By Christian Murray
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer announced last night that he is opposed to the plans put forward by a group of developers that would bring as many as 15 buildings to a 28-acre area in Long Island City.
Van Bramer, who has less than 18 months left in office due to term limits, posted a tweet that condemned the development that would go up by Anable Basin where the Amazon campus was slated to go.
“We cannot keep doing the same things over and over again and expect different results,” he tweeted. “We need to fundamentally change how we view development in New York City. I do believe that something should happen on this land, but this proposal isn’t that something.”
The tweet then referenced an article in the Queens Eagle that included excerpts of a letter he wrote to activist groups that was critical of the project.
The developers, who need to rezone the area in order to move forward with their plans, will need the city council to approve it. Should the plans get to the city council for a vote by the end of next year, Van Bramer would likely determine their fate since the council typically follows the lead of the local member.
However, Van Bramer is term limited and he may well be out of office by the time it gets to the council.
Van Bramer in the letter to activists cited gentrification as a key reason for his opposition.
“There is no question that this project as proposed would cause rents to rise in the surrounding community,” Van Bramer said in the letter, which was included in the Queens Eagle article. “There are far too many luxury apartments included and the proposed affordability is simply unacceptable.”
Van Bramer did not respond to Queens Post’s request for comment nor a request for a copy of the letter.
The development plan–put together by TF Cornerstone, Plaxall, Simon Baron and MAG Partners—incorporates the sites where Amazon HQ2 was slated to be built as well as some adjacent parcels.
The city council requested the developers come together and produce one unified plan for the area as opposed to each having a separate concept for their own property.
The developers have produced a joint plan that would consist of 10-to-12 million square feet of space, with buildings that range in height from 400 to 700 square feet, the equivalent of 30 to 60 story structures.
The developers also formed a group, dubbed YourLIC, to get community feedback. The group has held five workshops—with two held virtually—to discuss components of the plan.
The developers—with the exception of TF Cornerstone—each own a portion of the 28 acre area. TF Cornerstone is looking to develop two city-owned lots on 44th Drive, which are part of the 28-acre area.
Van Bramer, like other elected officials such as Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, said that the public land should be exclusively for public use.
“I have said before and I will say again that all of the publicly owned land in this site should be used exclusively for the public,” Van Bramer wrote in the letter. “Not handed over to developers for profit, and I strongly support a community land trust on this site.”
The sites surrounding Anable Basin have been the subject of controversy for some time, since several of them are where Amazon HQ2 campus was expected to go, which would have brought office space and jobs.
The tech giant abandoned its plan after getting pushback from elected officials such as Van Bramer, State Sen. Mike Gianaris and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Last week, Van Bramer was also critical of plans for a mega development on the border of Astoria and LIC that would bring as many as 2,700 residential units as well as commercial space in about a dozen buildings.
Van Bramer tweeted: “This proposal envisions luxury towers, some as tall as 26 stories, surrounded by two- to six- story buildings in a working class neighborhood. We do not want or need Hudson Yards East in #Astoria! ”
That project, which is also in Van Bramer’s district, also requires a rezoning and therefore city council approval.
The developers— Silverstein Properties, Kaufman Astoria Studios and BedRock Real Estate Partners–plan to start the rezoning process next year. It remains to be seen if Van Bramer will still be in office at that time it goes before the city council.
Van Bramer has not always been opposed to rezonings and large-scale development.
In 2013 he approved a rezoning that permitted G&M Realty to build more than 1,000 units on the former 5Pointz site on Jackson Avenue. He voted to approve it—despite many progressives and artists saying that project would lead to gentrification. The community board also voted against the rezoning.
Van Bramer also voted for the expansion of the Business Improvement District into Hunters Point, after allocating $25,000 of city funds to study it.
Can the existing transportation, sewer, water and utility systems support such a huge development project? There is also the challenge of expanding fire, police, sanitation, schools and other critical municipal services to support the thousands of new residents and commercial development that would come with this project..
(Larry Penner — transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for grants supporting billions in capital projects and programs on behalf of the MTA, NYC Transit, LIRR, Metro North, MTA Bus, NYC DOT along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ).