BY JON CRONIN
Just north of Hunters Point in Long Island City, TF Cornerstone is developing commercial office space with some residential housing, 19,000 square feet of ground- floor retail and an acre of public open space on the underutilized city-owned waterfront.
Jon McMillan, the director of planning for TF Cornerstone, one of the largest developers in New York City, said that his company is also developed the Queens West project just south of Hunters Point Park. McMillan noted that while Queens West is a residential bedroom community for people who commute to Manhattan, he sees the new Long Island City development as one that could bring Manhattan residents east for work.
McMillan said that the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which put out the bid for the project, wanted to “maximize the nonresidential uses and minimize the residential.” He explained that the EDC wanted to preserve local industries and maximize job development.
“This is a place where you’re supposed to come to work or live and work,” he said.
He added that the 7 train, which travels through that neighborhood, is famously overcrowded, and the new development could provide an opportunity for residents to stay in Queens, rather than take the packed subway into Manhattan.
The site would have to be rezoned and then go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process—which is expected to be finished by summer 2019. McMillan noted that the first portion of the project is likely to be finished by 2022.
The site is being developed in conjunction with C4Q, a nonprofit tech trainer for low-income students, and GMDC, a nonprofit developer of affordable industrial and manufacturing space.
The development will also feature 1,000 residential units and 250 affordable units. McMillan said that slightly fewer than half will be market rate. In the Queens West project 100 percent is market rate.
McMillan noted that making the unit actually affordable to the community “is one of the major concerns” of Community Board 2, adding that he would meet with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz in early April to discuss the affordability of the units.
The industrial complex will bring 400,000 square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet will be light manufacturing and industrial space. TF Cornerstone announced that 50,000 square feet of the space will be operated by the nonprofit GMDC. The TF Cornerstone proposal noted that 25 percent of GMDC’s waitlist from Brooklyn properties are businesses moving out of Long Island City. The proposal also predicts that the development will bring 1,500 permanent jobs to the area.
McMillan said that TF Cornerstone is currently searching for anchor tenants for a cultural space, and plans to have six dance studios in the facility. The 400,000 square feet of office space will be designated for speculative building, said McMillan.
C4Q’s workforce development space at the site will include classrooms and 10,000 square feet of career-training space that will primarily serve local residents with low-income backgrounds. Graduates from the nonprofit’s classes made as little as $18,000 per year before becoming involved with C4Q and end up making as much as $85,000 after having graduated, according to TF Cornerstone’s proposal.
TF Cornerstone will also dedicate a space for a new state-of-the-art, 600-seat middle school for the neighborhood that will be built by the School Construction Authority. The school is scheduled to open in 2022.
TF Cornerstone will also develop one acre of the waterfront, which is currently in a state of disrepair. The upgraded waterfront will include a new kayak launch for the East River.
“We’re building a terrific waterfront park,” McMillan, said, noting that TF Cornerstone is partnering with the Billion Oysters Organization to build a small cove with oysters, which naturally clean the waterway. “We realized it is an opportunity to build a more naturalistic shoreline.”
TF Cornerstone also intends to partner with the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfield program.
McMillan noted that the area was damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and that TF Cornerstone will have to raise the waterfront—in conjunction with the nearby Plaxall development—to protect the ground floor. He added that TF Cornerstone will raise the street level and help pay for sewer infrastructure to accommodate the new building.