Smart planning key for Queens: Muss

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Joshua Muss, the third-generation head of Muss Development, told the Queens College Business Forum Friday that the challenges facing developers had been around for decades and distributed a presentation outline from 1986 to prove it.

The firm's first big development was the circa-1920 Treasure Island in Bayside, Muss said.

"Those were different times. My grandfather would see the property on a Monday, negotiate to buy it Tuesday and back the horses up Wednesday" with excavation and construction supplies, he said.

Queens eventually fell off the development radar because the largely residential borough was not a magnet for big commercial projects beyond MetLife and a handful of sites in Jamaica and Rego Park, he said.

This is a point unto itself in his 1986 outline, under the heading "problems" item A is "no ready product."

"A lot of times when a tenant moved out it was difficult to replace them because Queens wasn't known as a commercial center," Muss said.

He is the developer of Flushing's Sky View Parc project, which "didn't happen overnight," and has taken about 25 years to go from concept to concrete, he said.

The luxury project has been on his mind since 1983, when he first went to Community Board 7 and said, "I am now in development in Flushing and I'd like to talk about it. I'm not a carpetbagger I was raised in Flushing."

Muss has positioned his firm as a developer of housing, affordable and luxury, and spoke about how he finds new locations.

"There are areas of Queens with inappropriate development, people buying up clusters of houses and putting up inappropriate buildings," he said. "But there are swaths where there should be development like Long Island City. New York isn't a manufacturing city anymore" and the factories are fertile ground since the city opened the waterfront to development.

He also mentioned the 421A subsidy for affordable housing as a factor in where one builds and why.

"Building a building in Flushing uses the same union workers and has the same construction issues, but you don't get the same money as in Manhattan," he said. The 421A program allows developers to build more units if a percentage are affordable housing, which does not need to be on the same site.

The future for Queens is as bright as it has ever been, Muss said, as long as certain criteria are met.

"There is so much potential, and when the time comes, it'll happen," he said. "There needs to be better planning in place."

The Queens College Business Forums, which take place several times a year and are sponsored in part by the TimesLedger, provide an opportunity for the borough's business and academic communities to network.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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