Over the last 12 years, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has presided over nearly unprecedented levels of change within the City. From his push for healthier residents to technological advancements, Bloomberg has established his legacy as a change agent for New York.
Of Bloomberg’s many accomplishments, his push for development and economic progress has been the most notable. Here, we look at some of the significant development issues that have changed Queens over the last 12 years.
Willets Point Approved During Bloomberg’s Last Term
Mayor Bloomberg’s greatest accomplishment could be his proposal for Willets Point, an area that has stymied New York Mayors for decades.
Bloomberg eyed the industrial neighborhood for redevelopment when he took office, and despite many protests from the auto body workers that have done business there for years, the $3 billion redevelopment plan was approved by the City Council in October of this year.
The venture includes clearing out 23 acres of land occupied by the auto body shops and its owners by 2015, cleaning up the land before developing it.
Bloomberg said when he announced the plan last year that it would bring about 12,000 union construction jobs and more than 7,000 permanent jobs to the City.
During his last major speech as mayor on Wednesday, Bloomberg described Willets Point as “a former garbage dump that was left to fester for close to a century.”
On Oct. 9, the City Council gave the final green light for the plan, making the controversial project a reality. In addition to the restaurants and the mall, the Council agreed to give $15.5 million to the newly-created Flushing Meadows Corona Park Alliance and an additional $2.68 million toward a rooftop farm/greenhouse at the mega mall.
Bloomberg issued a statement, commending the passage of the plan, calling it a “crucial milestone” for Willets Point, despite the criticism he got from the plan.
“We look forward to the next steps of this landmark project, which will produce $3 billion of private investment that will almost immediately begin to impact the local economy,” he said.
The issue of Willets Point has consistently been in the news during Bloomberg’s last year as mayor.
During one rally just before the City Council vote in late September, the opponents of the plan said redeveloping the area would not be beneficial to Willets Point and the City overall.
“While NYC could greatly benefit from equitable development, the proposal to build a massive 1.4 million square foot shopping mall inside Flushing Meadows Corona Park is a poster child for everything that is wrong with development in our City,” said Msgr. Thomas Healy of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, during the September rally.
LIC’s Robust Expansion
From industrialized warehouses to a bustling residential neighborhood, Long Island City has seen tremendous growth over the years, in part due to the efforts of the Bloomberg administration.
From the development of Court Square, to the Queens Borough President’s office developing a plan to create a “Tech Zone” along the East River in Queens, LIC has truly become the epicenter of Queens.
Just a few stops from midtown Manhattan, LIC was the ideal location for a large scale rezoning that took place in 2001, which changed the area to a mixed-use development.
Liz Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership, said the rezoning and capital improvements for the primary commercial district along Queens Plaza and Jackson Avenue have transformed the area and helped attract new companies.
“Thanks to the commitment and vision of the Bloomberg administration, Long Island City has become a thriving business hub and a greatly expanded residential community for New York City,” Lusskin said.
Redevelopment of the waterfront to include thousands of new residential units, including middle-income housing, a beautiful waterfront park and the ferry service, have all contributed to the neighborhood’s growing desirability, Lusskin said.
Hunters Point South, a proposed mixed-use, affordable housing development is a part of Bloomberg’s $7.5 billion New Housing Marketplace Plan.
Jon McMillan, director of planning for the developer TF Cornerstone, which is responsible for the second phase of development at Hunters Point South, said because of the partnership between the public and private sectors, the waterfront is now the home to thousands of residents who over look the East River.
Alan Suna, CEO of Silvercup Studios, said because of the Mayor’s Office of Film and Theatre and Broadcasting and the New York State Film/TV Tax Credit Program, the City has become an ideal filming location.
“These efforts boosted production, generated revenue and brought many high-quality jobs to Long Island City,” Suna said.
David Brause, chair of the Long Island City Business Improvement District and President of Brause Realty Inc., who was influential in bringing JetBlue Airlines to LIC, said because Bloomberg’s administration has been a huge fan of LIC, the growth has been a “home run.”
Flushing’s Growth Hits New Heights
While Flushing has grown steadily over the last couple of decades, Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s presence helped the neighborhood bloom in multiple areas.
From development in the public and private sectors to a significant drop in crime, from cultural growth and renovation to new sports facilities, Flushing has seen a tremendous amount of change in the 12 years that the Bloomberg administration has been in charge.
According to Rob MacKay, director of public relations at the Queens Economic Development Forum, part of Flushing’s major growth in the last decade is a result of the massive drop in crime due to the work of Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Between 2001 and 2012, the number of felonies in Flushing dropped by 50 percent, from 2,553 crimes to 1,277 crimes.
“I’ve believed the basis of any economy is public safety. Mayor Bloomberg did a great job in keeping New York City safe,” MacKay said.
There have been many cultural improvements for those visiting and for New Yorkers alike. During the Mayor’s tenure, there have been renovations, replacements and expansions for some of Flushing’s top entertainment options, such as the construction of Citi Field.
Baseball was not the only Queens sport that got new digs during the Bloomberg era. In 2013, the City approved the expansion of the United States Tennis Association’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
According to MacKay, this attention to cultural centers, when combined with Flushing’s popularity among tourists, led to a very successful cultural year for the neighborhood.