Long Island City’s skyline is a few votes away from getting a bit brighter as JetBlue’s proposal for an illuminated rooftop sign that would rival Silvercup’s won over Community Board 1 on Tuesday night.
The airline will move to its new headquarters at the Brewster Building on Queens Plaza North in March, and has been working to get the sign approved since 2010, according to Penny Lee, a senior planner with the Department of City Planning.
“Signage is very important to us,” said Jeffrey Goodell, a JetBlue representative present at the meeting who pleaded the company’s case. “It’s an important part of the decision to stay in New York,” he added, referring to a search the airline began in 2009 that almost resulted in a Florida landing.
With its lease set to expire at its Forest Hills home, the airline began a real-estate hunt that it eventually narrowed down to two cities: New York and Orlando. Much to the mayor’s relief, the airline picked LIC’s 12-story Brewster Building, at 27-01 Queens Plaza North, a year later.
Goodell and Ross Moskowitz, a lawyer for JetBlue, came armed to Community Board 1’s meeting with a bevy of design layouts and plans for the signage. They explained that a light box behind the letter-cut sign — standing 41 feet tall and 75 feet wide — would illuminate the company’s logo 24 hours a day. If erected, drivers coming over the Queensboro Bridge, as well as riders on the elevated N and 7 trains passing nearby, would be able to see JetBlue’s name.
“The whole point of this move was to reestablish JetBlue as a homegrown airline,” Moskowitz said.
The company, in a joint effort with the Department of City Planning, is proposing a zoning law change that would remove a prohibition on rooftop signs rising more than 40 feet from the curb. In a designated area around Queens Plaza, the signs could instead stand a maximum of 45 feet tall from roofs rising between 70 to 150 feet from the curb. They could not flash, or stand on residential buildings, and all would have to be letter-cut, in the vein of Silvercup’s iconic design.
The new zoning text would allow only one sign per rooftop, which could only advertise the name of a tenant in the building on which it appears.
Besides the Brewster Building, no building now standing would meet the proposed requirements for a rooftop sign, Lee said.
For another such sign to get erected under the proposed amendment, a new building would have to get built, she explained. She told board members that this represented the first effort to reintroduce high-rise signs since they were banned citywide in 2001.
Community Board 1, which represents Astoria and part of Long Island City, voted to approve the zoning text amendment, 29 -7, with the recommendation that it also include a stipulation requiring that a tenant proposing a rooftop sign occupy at least 25 percent of the building’s space. Sign proposals would be evaluated on a “first in, first served” basis, Lee said.
Because of the Brewster’s location, Community Board 2, which represents Sunnyside and part of Long Island City, will also have to approve the amendment, before it heads to the Borough President’s Office, the City Planning Commission and ultimately the City Council for a vote, Lee said.