Long Island City Watch: 16 Things to Know About the Area’s Residential Development and Transportation Issues

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November 6, 2018

With Amazon tapping Long Island City for part of its HQ2 site, the booming waterfront Queens neighborhood is under the spotlight.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered plenty of carrots to lure the online giant to LIC, and the de Blasio administration recently announced a $180 million “investment strategy” to bolster the neighborhood’s transit, infrastructure, resiliency, parks and more.

Localize.city, a real estate knowledge platform that creates dozens of insights for every New York City address, took a look at what’s been in the works for the area’s residential development, as well as the transportation landscape.

“When Amazon moves part of its second headquarters to Long Island City, it will have a tremendous impact on the neighborhood and others nearby,” said Localize.city urban planner Stephen Albonesi. “But if any area in New York is poised for a major influx in residents, it’s Long Island City, where a building boom is already remaking much of the area and where residents have been grappling with how to meet the demands of thousands of new people.”

  1. Long Island City is by far the No. 1 neighborhood in the city for new development.

New units are opening at a clip right now in the neighborhood. Roughly 3,000 units were completed in the first half of 2018, and another 3,300 units are expected to hit the market between now and 2020, according to a Localize.city analysis of Department of Building data. That represented 20 percent of all of the new units (with at least 4 units) expected to be built by 2020, Localize.city data scientists noted.

  1. And the furious pace of construction continues.

Looking beyond 2020: The neighborhood will remain the No. 1 area for construction.  Another 1,500 units are in the pipeline, based on permits filed within the past 12 months, and another wave is expected: permits have been filed — but not yet approved — for at least 2,600 more units, Localize.city found.

The above map shows new construction of residential development of buildings with four or more units in LIC from Jan. 1, 2008 to July 1, 2018. The buildings in dark gold have already been completed. The translucent ones are under construction. (This does not include buildings with permits that have not yet been approved.)
  1. Long Island City also leads the boroughs for the highest number of units rising in the floodplain.

Nearly 2,000 new apartments currently under construction are in the city’s 100-year-flood zone, which means there’s a 1 percent risk of a flood event each year, according to a Localize.city analysis of flood-prone areas based on FEMA’s 2015 Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map and Department of Buildings permit data.

  1. Newton Creek, the Superfund site on the area’s southern border, won’t be cleaned up at least until 2029.

The creek, once the city’s epicenter for petroleum refining, left behind a legacy of pesticides, metals and other toxins. Thousands of residents are moving in near the contaminated waterway before it’s cleaned up. Making matters worse, much of the area’s waterfront is at high risk of flooding during major storms. So, the combination of major flood risk and polluted waters could mean toxic sludge flowing into streets and homes during the next major storm.

  1.  A massive new neighborhood might rise atop Sunnyside Yards.

The neighborhood would be six times bigger than Manhattan’s Hudson Yards, with up to 24,000 units of housing, 52 acres of parks, 19 schools and more than 1 million square feet of retail and office space, officials have said. It would take at least a decade to build and would better connect Astoria, Long Island City and Sunnyside.

  1. The city is considering rezoning an area to the north of Sunnyside Yards to spur mixed-use high-rise development.

The rezoning could transform the areas along Northern Boulevard, Jackson Avenue and 41st Avenue, where industrial buildings, self-storage units and parking lots would make way for mixed-use towers.

  1. There’s still a shortage of essential amenities, but more shops and restaurants are coming.

Groceries and pharmacies are still scarce, and publicly accessible gyms may be in short supply because they’re included as amenities within many private developments. But more retail is on the horizon: roughly 500,000 square feet is expected by the early 2020’s. Much of it may skew toward chain stores, large grocers and movie theaters.

  1. Long Island City had the most parking complaints per resident in the five boroughs.

The area saw more than 4,000 parking-related complaints in one year, according to a May analysis from Localize.city.

The area, a commercial and industrial hub where a major construction boom is underway, also saw the largest increase of parking-related complaints over five years.

“Tensions over parking have revved up in Long Island City as more people have moved into the neighborhood,” Localize.city data scientist Michal Eisenberg said. “Long Island City saw a 254 percent increase in the number of parking-related complaints over the past five years. Complaints jumped from 36 per every 1,000 residents to 127 per every 1,000 residents.”


  1.  Parking placard abuse is also an issue in the area.

Long Island City ranked No. 9 in terms of areas where people are filing 311 complaints about parking placard abuse, according to a Localize.city report. When drivers with placards block crosswalks, fire hydrants or bike lanes, they potentially endanger public safety. The fact that people in LIC have been complaining about it more than in other parts of the city again shows how parking issues are especially problematic in the area.

  1. LIC also leads the city for blocked bike lane complaints.

Cycling is popular in the area, which has more than 40 Citibike stations. But vehicles don’t necessarily respect bike lanes here.

There were more than 70 complaints about vehicles blocking bike lanes at Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive and 40 complaints about blocked bike lanes at Vernon Boulevard and 45th  Road, according to Localize.city’s analysis of 311 complaints from Sept. 4, 2017, to Sept. 4, 2018.  Taken together, these two areas marked the No. 1 hotspot for blocked bike lane complaints in the five boroughs.

  1. Streets in Hunter’s Point are being revamped with bike lanes, plazas and wider sidewalks.

Sections of 11th Street are getting protected bike lanes as the roadway shrinks from four to two lanes. Parts of 48th and 49th Avenues will also get two-way protected bike lanes. Loading docks and parking areas are being replaced in the waterfront area with new trees, benches and expanded sidewalks.

One of the most dangerous streets in Western Queens, 21st Street, is also getting safety upgrades to make it more pedestrian-friendly. Between 2009 and 2016, five pedestrians and one cyclist were killed on this four-lane truck route connecting the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and RFK/Triborough Bridge.

  1. The No. 7 line may improve thanks to a new signal system, but for now, expect continued delays and service suspension.

The 7 line is one of the first to get a new signal system, and residents along the line had been promised new signals and fully restored service by November. But the timeline has been pushed back before and could be pushed back again. The new signals will allow for at least two additional trains to run on this line every hour.

  1. The G train will become more convenient starting in 2019.

The much-maligned G train is getting additional train cars and more frequent service between April 2019 and June 2020 during the L train shutdown. But many residents are wondering whether the MTA will restore G train service to Forest Hills instead of stopping at Court Square.

  1. Ferry service has made the waterfront more accessible.

Three NYC Ferry routes serve the neighborhood with more than 1,200 riders boarding every weekday, city officials said.

  1. Faster, more reliable Select Bus Service may be coming.

There may be an SBS route along or near the existing Q66 bus route, between Flushing and Long Island City. But it may be years away, officials have said.

  1. The BQX streetcar might enhance the area’s transit options.

If built, it would run along 21st Street and Vernon Boulevard as part of an 11-mile stretch from Astoria to Gowanus. But it wouldn’t be completed until at least 2029, according to officials.

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