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Opening of second building moves Queens West ahead

The first tenants moved into the second residential tower on the Queens West site Monday, ending a nearly five-year break in the completion of new buildings in the development project.

Avalon Riverview, a 32-story luxury apartment house that sits on 50th Avenue along the East River waterfront, opened its first four floors for occupancy 16 months after construction began in late 2000.

“We envision it as being a wonderful place for people to live, a place where they’ve got all of the conveniences and proximities to Manhattan but where they ultimately will get a little bit more for their money,” said Tracey Appelbaum, vice president for Avalon Bay Communities.

The building is only the second to open in Queens West, a joint effort by the city and state economic development agencies and the Port Authority to build up the Hunter’s Point waterfront with commercial and residential properties.

The first, the 40-story Citylights co-op, was completed in 1997 on a parcel immediately north of Avalon Riverview.

Construction crews are gradually working their way up the building to prepare every floor for tenants, a goal that is not expected to be fully realized until October, when the penthouse is scheduled to become available. The building will open up gradually, with a few more floors welcoming occupants every month.

Fifteen percent of the building has already been leased, Appelbaum said.

Rents range from $1,495 for a studio to $6,700 for a duplex, a price tag Appelbaum said “gets you a lot” compared to Manhattan, with prices between 20 percent and 25 percent lower than rates for similar accommodations across the river.

But the building has also faced some unforeseen competition because Manhattan rents have fallen off since Sept. 11.

“All of the lowered rents and subsidies that are being offered elsewhere in Manhattan are certainly affecting us as we consider ourselves to be priced as a discount off of Manhattan rents, which are discounted from where they were just a few months ago,” Appelbaum said.

Although the building looks like a slice of Manhattan set on the shoreline of Queens, its tenants are coming from both sides of the East River. Appelbaum said the property is attracting Manhattanites looking for a break in rents, as well as residents of the borough and beyond who want to move closer to Gotham but not within it.

To that end, the phone number for the leasing office is printed prominently on two enormous blue banners that hang down along the sides of the Avalon Riverview — one facing Manhattan, the other Queens.

Still, there is much work to be done. On Friday, crews were busy installing cobblestones into the sidewalk that runs around the entrance. Although the 24-hour doorman was already stationed in the lobby, slices of blue tape still clung along the edge of a recently painted column, where they had been laid to prevent the color from creeping onto the ceiling.

The 74 acres of Queens West are eventually expected to hold 19 buildings, with residential towers on the northern and southern ends united by a central commercial core.

The northernmost property, the site of an old Pepsi bottling plant with its sign still hanging prominently along the East River, will be built up by Rockrose Development, and LCORP has been named to develop the commercial part.

The southern section, for which a developer has yet to be named, is being eyed by NYC 2012 as the potential site of the Olympic Village if the city wins its bid to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Avalon Bay, meanwhile, plans to break ground in early 2003 on at least one more residential building on the parcel directly north of Citylights that now sits behind a chain-link fence.

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

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