Maloney Discusses The Anable Basin Rezoning

Source: Queens Gazette

Congress Member Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12) released the following statement on on the Anable Basin Rezoning in Long Island City:

“For decades New York City turned its back on its waterfront – pushing industrial uses to the East River, while building residential communities farther inland. This left New York City with some of the most polluted waterways in the nation and some of the most unfortunate land use rules in any urban community. Instead of giving people access to the waterfront, New York classified many of those areas as heavy industrial, making it impossible to build residential and commercial communities. Today we want cleaner industry, clean waterways and access to our waterfront. Anable Basin is currently a gloomy industrial area with limited roads, limited access, sparse public transportation and very little retail. 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.

“Unfortunately, New York has often forgotten to include infrastructure and amenities when rezoning plans are developed and I am concerned about the impact of encouraging large numbers of people to come into a neighborhood that has never had the type of traffic or population currently contemplated.”

Schools: “I am pleased that Plaxall is proposing to give the city a lot at 11th Street and 47th Avenue for a school. The draft scoping document describes a 728-seat, five-story building. Unfortunately, the model provided in Figure 12 appears to have no outdoor playground space. Some schools create outdoor space on the roof, but that space is only accessible to children at the school. Elsewhere, outdoor space is opened to the public after school hours and on weekends, and these outdoor playgrounds offer the entire community a chance to use the play space, including children who are too young for school.

“I am also pleased that the Environmental Review will look at the need for intermediate and high schools… there are limited options for high school in Long Island City and thought should be given to the creation of an academically rigorous school that would serve the new populations of children expected to grow up in these neighborhoods.

“I would also hope that the environmental impact statement would evaluate the impact on the health of the children in having their school situated in an M1-4 neighborhood. While some of the light industrial uses would be benign, others could involve chemicals that would have an impact on the children’s health.”

Climate Resilient Design: “During Superstorm Sandy, all of Anable Basin was flooded. 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 just below 46th Road. Clearly any construction at Anable Basin must take into account the area’s propensity to flood. Better drainage and more resiliency is critical to making this development a success.”

Transportation and Infrastructure: “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. The 7 and E trains are among the most overcrowded in the city. In absolute terms, ridership entering the Vernon Street Boulevard station has grown precipitously. More than 5,000 more people enter the station each day than did in 2011. When Anable Basin is rezoned, it is likely that both stations will experience significant increases, exacerbating crowding.

Consideration should be given to addressing the overcrowding at these stations and the frequency with which trains arrive too crowded to board.

“Currently there are no buses going into Anable Basin. The nearest bus route is the Q103 along Vernon Boulevard, and there are currently no stops immediately adjacent to Anable Basin. Consideration should be made to adding bus stops and increasing the number of buses.

“Ferries have become a very successful way to add to transportation options. The scoping document points out that the ferry stop is 1,000 feet away from the proposed development. For those on the north side of Anable, without a pedestrian bridge, the walk would be very long although the distance as the crow flies appears short. Either the bridge should be required as part of the development of the community or there needs to be consideration of working with the MTA to increase bus service to bring people to the ferry dock.”

Arts: “Long Island City has a growing arts community. I note that the area near Kaufman Astoria Studios was recently designated as the Kaufman Arts District. I am pleased that the rezoning contemplates an incentive for arts and cultural uses. Arts are a multi-billion dollar industry for our city, contributing jobs, tax revenue and tourism to our economy, but many artists and arts institutions find themselves priced out of many communities. Accordingly, it is important to ensure that this incentive does not just encourage the creation of space, but that the space remains affordable for artistic uses.”

Retail: “I am pleased to see that retail uses are contemplated. Neighborhoods need basic things like grocery stores, barbers, convenience stores, shoe repair stores, dry cleaners, restaurants and other important providers. If residential uses are included, we want to make sure that this new community has the basic amenities to attract residents and keep them. Commercial tenants also want access to shops and restaurants.”

Streets: “Street access to Anable Basin is inconsistent. Center Boulevard wraps around for one block to connect to 5th Street, but there is no street that connects that street to 45th Road. There is no street at all for most of the north side of the basin. Only 44th Drive goes to the water. 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.”

Open space: “I am pleased to see that the scoping document includes nearly 135,000 square feet of open space. I hope that this space will be programmed to include both active and passive uses, as well as waterfront access. I hope there will be new ball fields, playground space, a waterfront esplanade and/or fishing piers. There must be landscaping and trees, seating, tables, outdoor exercise equipment and other amenities. Open spaces must have flood proof and salt-resistant planting, given its history of flooding.”

Cornell Tech: “Cornell Tech was created with the idea that its students would be entrepreneurial and encouraged to create new businesses. Since the applied sciences campus was proposed, I have encouraged the idea that many of those businesses would be located in Long Island City with its easy access to the Cornell campus and great transportation to New York’s other central business districts. Long Island City has the advantage of relatively inexpensive rents, great infrastructure and a growing supply of mixed-use developments so people can live near where they work. I believe that the new Anable Basin development could be a great complement to Long Island City’s existing supply of commercial office space and I hope that the city will consult with the leaders at Cornell Tech to better understand the types of space graduates will need. I also hope the city will consider setting aside some of the developments as a special Queens Tech zone similar to the Alexandria Center for Life Sciences.”

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