In 2001, the City approved the rezoning of a 37 block area in the center of Long Island City (LIC) in Queens. The Department of City Planning (DCP) initiated the rezoning to take advantage of an area that was well served by mass transit and transform it into a residential and commercial hub. Also initiated were major vehicular traffic modifications, such as Queens Plaza, to help correct existing problems and mitigate the impacts of future growth.
After the rezoning, several projects began construction, including Silvercup West, a plan by the Silvercup Studios to build new production facilities and housing. The Queens West project in nearby Hunter’s Point is also moving forward and was aided by this rezoning. Many other smaller projects have also started construction or have been proposed in Long Island City including several housing developments and a proposed dorm facility for Ph.D. candidates at CUNY. Several upscale hotels have opened in the area as well.
There are some concerns about the new developments in LIC. One of the concerns is whether the existing infrastructure can handle the projected growth in the area. Con Edison has pledged tens of millions of dollars to upgrade the electrical system in the area in the wake of the 2006 blackout.
The City has committed to improving traffic flow and parking conditions in the area as well, partly through the implementation of the Queens Plaza project that is currently underway. Many residents, however, have expressed frustration that much of the development that is occurring is not affordable to the current residents of the area.
In addition, community groups have expressed concern over the destruction of potential landmarks and historic sites to make way for development. Another problem is the need to remediate environmental contamination at some sites that were caused by past industrial users.
Plans are being set for an 11-acre park and the construction of 5,000 apartments at Hunters Point South. Some residents are concerned about the additional density that will be added to the site. The park is scheduled to be completed in 2013.
Finally, there are other competing land use priorities in the region. For instance, the MTA has discussed its need to acquire several properties for its East Side Access project. In addition, residents outside of the center of LIC, such as those in Dutch Kills, are concerned that the current zoning in their neighborhood allows commercial construction that they feel is out of character with the neighborhood. With the development boom nearby, the City has started the rezoning process for Dutch Kills to prohibit such construction, but residents and local elected officials are concerned about its slow pace.