Maloney critiques Plaxall’s Anable Basin rezoning proposal

Source: Times Ledger

By Bill Parry

The public will have another two weeks to submit written comments on Long Island City-based Plaxall’s Anable Basin rezoning proposal after the Department of City Planning extended the original deadline. The agency will accept comments on the plan to develop 15 acres along the East River waterfront until the close of business Jan. 19.

A rezoning is necessary to allow for higher residential and commercial density than is currently permitted by the city.

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) reviewed the draft scope of work proposed by Plaxall that within 15 years would bring a 65-story tower; 5,000 residential units spread out over eight buildings, with 25 percent set aside for affordable housing; manufacturing and office space; and an esplanade to make Anable Basin accessible to the public.

“Anable Basin is currently a gloomy industrial area with limited roads, limited access, sparse public transportation and very little retail,” Maloney said. “We have seen the success of Queens West and Hunters Point South in Long Island City and in Northern Brooklyn. And it is time for that trend to reach Anable Basin — an extraordinary area with magnificent views of Manhattan and the East River. This rezoning has the potential to create another great neighborhood, if it is done right.”

While Maloney is pleased that Plaxall is proposing to give the city a lot at 11th Street and 47th Avenue for a 728-seat, five-story school, the model provided appears to have no outdoor playground space.

“The school is not yet designed,” Plaxall spokesman James Yolles said. “It’s certainly possible that the school could include outdoor space. The city would both determine what type of school it is and design the school.”

Maloney is also pleased to see the retail component of the plan.

“Neighborho­ods need basic things like grocery stores, barbers, convenience stores, shoe repair stores, dry cleaners, restaurants and other important providers,” Maloney said. “Retail uses ensure that the streets become lively and that people have reasons to come to the area.”

Maloney is worried, however, about logistics.

“Street access to Anable Basin is inconsiste­nt,” she said. “It is striking to see that no thought is being given to mapping additional streets to connect the street grid in this new neighborhood. That needs to be remedied.”

Yolles said Anable Basin has been inaccessible to the public for its 150-year history.

“Our plan revolves around opening up the Basin to the public — via a new bi-level esplanade that wraps around it, and six public pedestrian lanes that will provide connections to the Basin from the north, south and east,” he said. “Connectivity and public access really lie at the heart of our plan for a cohesive district.”

Maloney is worried about accessible transit.

“I am concerned that there is insufficient planning for the transportation and infrastructure needs of this new community. The subways closest to Anable Basin are a considerable distance away and are already overburden­ed,” she said. “The 7 and E trains are among the most overcrowded in the city.”

Yolles said the new NYC Ferry stop on the Astoria line is located at the southern edge of the Basin and will provide a “convenient transit option for all those living and working around the new Anable Basin.”

Maloney likes that the rezoning plan includes an incentive for arts and cultural uses as well as 135,000 square feet of open space and that the development could be a “great complement” to Long Island City’s existing supply of commercial office space to cater to startups from future graduates from Cornell Tech on Roosevelt Island. But she did have a warning for Plaxall.

“During Superstorm Sandy, all of Anable Basin was flooded,” she said. “The city’s inundation maps show flooding all the way to 11th Street and in some areas even farther east. Vernon Boulevard was under water from just before 43rd Road all the way south to 46th Road. Clearly any construction at Anable Basin must take into account the area’s propensity to flood. Better drainage and more resiliency are critical to making this development a success.”

Plaxall is well aware of the flooding that occurred during Sandy. The company offices are on 46th Avenue just off Vernon Boulevard.

“By raising the esplanade, our project will provide important flood resiliency infrastructure — both for the buildings surrounding the new Anable Basin and the neighborhood beyond,” Yolles said. “We appreciated Congresswoman Maloney’s feedback. We are in touch with her office and look forward to working with her as we refine and improve our proposal.”