What has angered many residents is the watchmaker's plan to expand the 160,000-square-foot plant by 50%. To do that, the company built a two-story extension that resulted in a 35-foot blank wall running along the back of the seven-acre lot. The howls of outrage came even though the privately held, 58-year-old watchmaker last year had voluntarily met with Queens officials to share its plans. At the time, the company, with its 350 skilled employees, seemed like an ideal fit for the area.
Surprised by the reaction, perhaps, but eager to please its new neighbors, E. Gluck quickly moved to make amends. In August, it spent more than $1 million to chop 14 feet off the offending 35-foot wall and set back the second story from the street by 40 feet.
"Our concern was to be a good neighbor," said Murray Stimler, senior vice president of the company, which imports parts from China and then crafts them into more than a half-dozen brand-name timepieces for Armitron, Nine West, Vince Camuto and Anne Klein, as well as private-label offerings.
He also noted that the company has put its security kiosk 50 feet back from the curb to spare locals from trucks idling in the street, and has splashed out $100,000 on mature trees and landscaping around the back of the plant. The hoops that E. Gluck has had to jump through in Little Neck come after 33 years as a pillar of the community in its current home, on the other side of Queens in Long Island City. There, ironically, E. Gluck is being forced out not by developers keen to convert its 800,000-square-foot, nine-story building into luxury condos, but by the City University of New York, which wants the property for its own use.
On the other hand, when it signed its 20-year lease in 2013, the city sweetened the deal by giving E. Gluck $15 million in tax incentives over 25 years. Now, after having spent a hunk of that savings to better fit into its new home, the company will move into it in December.