The official cherry red logo of the Long Island City Business Improvement District was a hit at its official launch on Tuesday.
The color went over especially well with two of the earliest commercial inhabitants of the area: Citibank, who thought it might bear a resemblance to the red in their signature umbrella, and Silvercup Studios, who couldn’t help but notice the hue’s similarity to that of their famous sign.
The Long Island City BID, which includes 84 properties along Queens Plaza North and South, from 21st Street to the waterfront, will receive extra sanitation, security and even a marketing campaign. The BID will also include both sides of Jackson Avenue, from Queens Plaza to Thomson Avenue.It’s an area long thought of as a dirty transportation hub at best and a haven for criminals and prostitutes at worst.
Mayor Bloomberg signed the BID into law, making it the city’s 50th, last December. But getting it established hasn’t been easy. “There were a couple of efforts over the past 20 years,” said Gayle Baron, president of the Long Island City Business Development Corporation. The footprint of the earlier plans may have been too big, she speculated, or it might have been that the real estate market just wasn’t strong enough to support it. The final, successful plan has been in the works for three and a half years.
“When you have a long gestation period, you usually have a big, healthy baby,” joked Gary Kesner, chairman of the LICBDC.
In order to establish a Business Improvement District, at least 51 percent of property owners must agree to the plan. All property owners will then be assessed a tax which will pay for additional services.
The Long Island City BID is planning to offer extra street maintenance, including street sweeping, graffiti removal, bagging garbage and maintaining plants and landscaping. In addition, extra unarmed security guards will patrol the area from 4 p.m. to midnight, Monday through Friday. The Long Island City BID will also kick off a marketing campaign to bring customers and new businesses into the area.
Queens Plaza is in the beginning stages of a major revitalization campaign to ease traffic congestion and make the area more pedestrian-friendly. “If you cross here you are taking your life in your hands,” said George Stamiadas of the Dutch Kills Civic Association. There is a three-way intersection at Queens Plaza South and Jackson Avenue that is particularly treacherous for pedestrians.
In addition, the neighborhood includes Queensbridge Houses, the city’s largest housing project. City Councilman Eric Gioia said Long Island City, with its juxtaposition of rich and poor embodied the idea of two Americas: one that has and one that doesn’t have. With the help of the BID and other improvements to the neighborhood, Gioia said that distinction could be erased in the next 10 years.
With a combination of federal and city funding, the Department of City Planning will install new bike lanes and reconfigure the streets to improve traffic flow. The infamous brown municipal parking structure will be torn down and replaced with an office building.
JFK Commuter Plaza, an island of parking meters at Jackson Avenue and Queens Plaza North, will be removed and replaced with a redirected roadway that will accommodate westbound traffic to the bridge. This will eliminate a traffic light, and hopefully the constant gridlock in that area.
The Long Island City BID plans to operate as a liaison between U.S. Representative Carolyn Maloney and the Department of City Panning as the redesign plans are implemented. Work is expected to start in 2007.