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LIC Summit discusses changing landscape of dynamic neighborhood

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Several hundred business leaders, city and state officials, residents and stakeholders gathered Tuesday at the Museum of the Moving Image for the 2nd annual LIC Summit to hear panel discussions on such issues as real estate, transportation, tourism and culture that shape the future of Long Island City. The unprecedented growth of the neighborhood dominated conversation.

“It’s an exciting time for Long Island City,” LIC Partnership President Elizabeth Lusskin said. “The LIC Summit gives local thought leaders, policymakers and stakeholders a great opportunity to discuss exciting plans and priorities.”

The residential boom, which has added more than 8,600 units since 2006, is just getting started with another 22,500 more in the planning or construction phase. There are 26 hotels with nearly 2,500 rooms, with 26 more on the way, Lusskin said.

“I feel the envy from other Council members who see the growth of LIC from Manhattan,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said. “It’s exciting but we have to meet the challenges.”

One keynote panelist, Kathryn Wylde of Partnership for NYC, likened the growth of LIC to a “speeding train” while Seth Pinsky, former head of the NYC Economic Development Corporation, warned of an affordability crisis. “LIC is suffering some side effects of the race to develop,” he said.

“We should be creating space for commercial businesses that pay a living wage,” Pinsky said. “Right now there’s no space for the innovation economy.”

Others warned of the de Blasio administra­tion’s push for greater density and more affordable housing in Long Island City. “Everybody understands the opportunity to put density where you have transit,” said John Young, director of the Queens Borough Office of the Department of City Planning.

But could transit keep pace with the growth? That was the topic of a panel discussion on transportation that drew a standing room only crowd.

Dani Simons of Motivate, the company that operates the largest bike share company in the United States, reported Citi Bike would roll out in Long Island City this year. Ryan Russo, deputy commissioner of the Department of Transportation, said his agency is ready to “meet the demand for pedestrian friendly streets” and a cyclist network connecting to the coming ferry system.

Sam Schwartz, president and CEO of Sam Schwartz Engineering, a firm that specializes in transportation planning, spoke in favor of Move NYC’s proposed toll on the Queenboro Bridge.

“All the traffic leaves the LIE on to Van Dam Street snaking through our neighborhoods to get to the free bridge,” he said. “No neighborhood benefits more from Move NYC’s plan than LIC.”

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) liked parts of the plan but warned that it could add riders to mass transit, a system that is greatly stressed. “The real problem isn’t here and that’s the MTA and their 7 train,” he said. “What Hunters Point is dealing with is unbearable and here they’ll have 10,000 more riders in the coming years.” The MTA declined an invitation to participate in the summit.

“We haven’t touched on potential development in Sunnyside Yards and the development in Flushing,” Gianaris said. “That’s tens of thousand if not hundreds of thousands more residents. What’s going to happen when this line can’t handle the capacity problem? It’s a looming crisis.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4538.

Updated 2:53 pm, June 25, 2015
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