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Queens Chronicle

Growth celebrated at LIC breakfast

Commentators and business leaders discuss the neighborhood’s future

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Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2011 12:00 pm

The Long Island City Partnership, an organization that advocates the area’s economic development, held a real estate business breakfast last Wednesday at Court Square Place, a 16-story office building in the heart of the commercial district that is but one new addition to the ever-changing LIC skyline.

Among the panelists was Joanna Geraghty, chief people officer and executive vice president of JetBlue Airways Corporation, who seemed to express the opinion of most of those in attendance when she said, “Long Island City is on the cusp of greatness.”

Moving its headquarters to LIC in the second quarter of 2012 from Forest Hills, where it has been for the past decade, JetBlue will be bringing approximately 1,000 employees, into the MetLife Building, located at Queens Plaza North.

“Everybody is excited to move,” Geraghty said. “I am extremely excited. I can’t wait to see what JetBlue brings to the neighborhood.”

Also on the panel was Frank Monterisi, vice president of the Related Companies, a real estate development firm, and manager of the Hunters Point South Project, a massive housing project. He shared Geraghty’s enthusiasm, calling LIC “one of the next great neighborhoods of New York. This neighborhood is really going to blossom,” he predicted.

Monterisi, whose company is overseeing the construction of two residential buildings on the waterfront, said one of them, a 39-story building, will feature 600 units, while the other, a 32-story building, will feature 300.

The anticipated tenants “come from everywhere,” Monterisi said, with eligible families ranging in income from $40,000 to $130,000.

Jason Sheftell, real estate editor for the NY Daily News, one of the event’s media co-sponsors, dubbed the area “Strong Island City,” calling it “a tremendous neighborhood.”

“I’m for development,” he said. “I like neighborhoods that grow.”

Sheftell had been concerned with how long-time residents would welcome newcomers to the area, but said his worries have been allayed.

He has found the area isn’t following in the footsteps of others taking the “not in my backyard” attitude, reticent to embrace change.

“This is a very livable neighborhood,” he said, with “such interesting people.”

“Small businesses can thrive here and so can big businesses,” he said.

Sheftell pointed out that some areas in Brooklyn, with burgeoning artistic districts, have become so popular that they are now almost unaffordable. “LIC will benefit from that,” he said, guessing that an influx of people will be moving to the neighborhood. “It’s really a place to live as opposed to a cool place you have to be,” he said.

However, not everything in the area is perfect. Geraghty expressed concern over the lack of restaurants or drug stores within walking distance of JetBlue’s new home, north of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, though she indicated that many of the company’s crew members “are out looking for affordable housing” in the area.

The lack of sufficient parking in the area was another troubling issue. Speaking of the two new high rises, Monterisi said that parcel A would have its own parking facility but that parcel B would not. “We couldn’t fit more parking into the footprint,” he said. “We have to do this at the right price.”

The two Hunter’s Point buildings are part of a projected seven-building development, and Monterisi said his company had to get the first two buildings right if the other five are to have a viable shot.

Sheftell suggested the area needs additional amenities, and with the development of Hunter’s Point, more shops are expected to be built. Overall, everyone was pleased with LIC’s growth.

“Artists are coming here in droves,” Sheftell said. “The place is cool because of the people who are here.”

Welcome to the discussion.