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Met Life set to announce relocation to LIC: Beep

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was expected to officially announce this week its plans to move 1,000 employees into office space in Long Island City, Queens Borough President Claire Shulman told the TimesLedger last week.

The anticipated announcement comes one week after the City Planning Commission unanimously approved zoning changes intended to carve a central business district in a 37-block section of Long Island City, paving the way for more companies like MetLife to move into western Queens.

Shulman said MetLife would officially announce its much-anticipated plans to open an office in Long Island City at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, May 30, at City Hall.

When word of the move first leaked into the press over a month ago, MetLife spokesman John Calagna said the company was strongly considering a site at 27-01 Bridge Plaza North for the new office complex, which would accommodate employees being moved from the company’s Manhattan headquarters.

In a deal announced Jan. 23, MetLife agreed to lease a portion of its Manhattan office space to Credit Suisse First Boston starting in the fall.

The company’s corporate headquarters will remain at One Madison Avenue, but 1,700 employees will be moved to other sites throughout the region. Only 500 MetLife employees will be left at the Manhattan headquarters by the time the move is completed in October 2003.

The company has spent the past six months researching possible sites to which it could move employees displaced by the Credit Suisse deal. The currently vacant Long Island City building, owned by Brause Realty, was formerly used for automobile and plane manufacturing.

“The building right now is completely gutted, and so it would be changed significantly from a manufacturing type of building to office space,” Calagna said last month.

With its easy access to eight subway lines and proximity to the company’s Manhattan offices, the Long Island City location would be a short commute for employees, most of whom live in the five boroughs.

The City Planning commission voted unanimously at a May 23 meeting to approve special zoning regulations that would turn 37 blocks in Long Island City into a mixed use district for commercial, residential and manufacturing use.

The area, dubbed the Special Long Island City Mixed Use District, covers 37 blocks east of the Queensboro Bridge, bounded generally by 23rd Street on the west, 41st Avenue on the north and Sunnyside Yards to the east.

The rezoning is intended to transform Long Island City into a major business district, allowing construction of taller buildings and increasing population density.

“This proposal allows Long Island City to realize its potential to emerge as one of the city’s major business centers — an important part of our continued effort to embrace economic expansion,” said Joseph B. Rose, chairman of the City Planning Commission.

The commission’s approval of the rezoning proposal drew mixed reactions from the two community boards that share the area in which the central business district would be created.

Although Community Board 2 originally approved the rezoning plans earlier this year, the board voted against modifications to the proposal which Queens City Planning Director John Young presented at its May 3 meeting.

The zoning plan was praised by George Delis, the district leader for Community Board 2, which covers Astoria and Long Island.

“Queens Plaza is now the hottest community for development,” Delis said. “It’s been in the making for a long time. Now it’s becoming a reality.

“It’s long overdue. I see skyscrapers coming into Queens Plaza. It’s just a matter of time.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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