Despite the city’s slow-moving plan to study Long Island City for a possible rezoning, real-estate developers are moving their residential and commercial development proposals for individual sites through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the city’s review process for zoning changes, while community members gear up to testify against the new developments this month.
The idea of a neighborhood-wide rezoning in Long Island City has some community members and small business owners—all concerned by what some have called “overdevelopment”—wondering how long it will be before they are pushed out.
Long Island City and its residents are all too familiar with rezonings. Over the last few decades the neighborhood, including Hunters Point, Queens Plaza and Dutch Kills, has transformed from an industrial neighborhood to one hosting a mix of commercial and residential development under an ever-expanding skyline.
In 2017, Mayor de Blasio announced Long Island City as one of the dozen or so neighborhoods the city planned to rezone as part of his plan to create an estimated 300,000 affordable units. The area boasts extensive transit access with with eight subway stations, 13 bus lines, two LIRR stations and the East River ferry terminal, and its proximity to both Manhattan and the new Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island make it an ideal location for a “economically diverse, 24/7, mixed-use community,” according to the Department of City Planning website.
The study launched by the de Blasio administration overlaps with the 2001 Queens Plaza study area and parts of the 2008 Dutch Kills study area. It encompasses the Special Long Island City Mixed Use District, a special-purpose zoning district that has a mix of residential, commercial, and light industrial uses and includes the Queens Plaza, Court Square, Hunter’s Point and Dutch Kills neighborhoods. Thirty‐seven blocks of the study area fall within the Queens Plaza and Court Square sub‐districts. According to the DCP, the majority of new completed or under-construction developments are located on those 37 blocks, including an estimated 10,100 housing units, more than 1.5 million square feet of office space and 600 hotel rooms. DCP has not scheduled any public engagement events yet for this study process.
According to residents, developers are not waiting for the city’s study or the possible city-sponsored rezoning and are avoiding the community by going through “spot-rezoning,” which means changing the zoning of a single property and not including any community engagement during the planning process.