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City uses $26 million to lure MetLife to LIC

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Mayor Rudy Giuliani...

By Dustin Brown

The Metropolitan Life Insurance Company officially announced last week it will move 1,000 employees into Long Island City, making it the first major corporation to stake a claim to the neighborhood amid city efforts to rezone it.

Mayor Rudy Giuliani announced the deal in a City Hall press conference May 30, only one week after the City Planning Commission approved a rezoning proposal to encourage high-density development and transform Long Island City into a central business district.

Earlier in May, MetLife signed a lease with Brause Realty to relocate 962 employees to Bridge Plaza North, a 404,000-square-foot, six-story building at 27-01 Bridge Plaza, across from the Queensboro Plaza subway stop.

Although MetLife’s intentions of moving to Long Island City were already widely known, last week’s announcement was the first time city and state officials revealed what financial incentives they offered to lure the insurance company into Long Island City.

MetLife will receive $26.2 million in discretionary tax and energy initiatives over the next 20 years, while the state will provide $4.3 million in grants and loans for worker training and renovation costs.

MetLife Chairman and CEO Robert H. Benmosche said the financial incentives were a primary factor in motivating the company to stay in New York.

“Without the money, we would be in New Jersey,” Benmosche said.

The company strongly considered moving into the Verizon building in Newark, where Benmosche said the state offered “a very competitive package.”

MetLife has spent the past six months scouting new office locations, following the company’s January announcement that it had agreed to lease some of its Manhattan office space to Credit Suisse First Boston in the fall.

While the company’s corporate headquarters will remain at One Madison Avenue, 1,900 employees will move to other sites throughout the region. Only 500 MetLife employees will be left at the Manhattan headquarters when the move to Queens is completed in October 2003, MetLife spokesman John Calagna said.

The building is in the heart of a 37-block area that the City Planning Commission is rezoning to transform Long Island City into a central business district.

MetLife was hailed at the press conference as a leader in the development of the neighborhood, since it will be the first major corporation to move there since the rezoning proposal was announced earlier this year.

“For it to go to Long Island City really speaks great things for what’s happening in Long Island City,” said Michael Carey, chairman of the New York City Industrial Development Agency.

“When people go and see what’s there today, it’s not what they’re going to see two years from now,” Benmosche said.

City officials stressed that the financial benefit to keeping MetLife in the city would result in a fast payoff of the government’s multi-million dollar investment.

“We will collect this money back in 6.7 months,” Giuliani said.

Seventy percent of the 1,000 employees being relocated to Long Island City are city residents, and MetLife officials said they felt strongly about relocating to a facility that was easily accessible.

“Our goal was to make sure those jobs stay in New York,” Benmosche said.

Formerly known as the Brewster Building, the structure has been used to manufacture airplanes and Rolls Royce automobiles.

Brause began renovating the building in August of last year and considered a wide range of potential tenants before signing the lease with MetLife.

“We did all this on spec, thinking that Long Island City’s time had come,” said David Brause, vice president of Brause Realty.

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

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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