NY Daily News: Long Island City waterfront reaches neighborhood nirvana
Long Island City waterfront reaches neighborhood nirvana
Area offers retail, restaurants and bars that rival Manhattan
By Jason Sheftell / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Published: Friday, June 15, 2012, 11:32 AM
The great 1960s New York City neighborhood activist Jane Jacobs called the movement on city sidewalks a “symphony.” She described a dance of people coming and going and waving and smiling. Children, adults and elderly were one for all. The sidewalks in her vision were happy.
[Read the article in the New York Daily News.]
Cities almost smiled.
On a Tuesday before 9 a.m., Long Island City seemed more cheery than the West Village, SoHo or upper West Side. Groups of people — families, couples, friends —moved in unison toward the No. 7 train, playgrounds, bike lanes, a supermarket, school and their jobs. An old man read a newspaper on a park bench. An Asian woman exercised under a tree.
It was as sweet an urban site on a New York City waterway since the Dutch settled lower Manhattan.
Well, maybe not that long, but it made you smile. In fact, the only people not happy were Manhattan-centric real estate agents.
The success isn’t only on the streets. It’s in the leasing offices, too. TF Cornerstone, the developer of the 23-acre waterfront master plan known as East Coast, recently rented 220 apartments in six weeks at 4615 Center Blvd. The 367-unit building, the third of five in the master plan, is 70% leased since March 1. Across the street at 4540 Center Blvd., adjacent to the famous Pepsi-Cola sign, 20% of the 345 apartments have rented since May 26.
“The success even surprises us,” says executive vice president Sofia Estevez, who has worked with TF Cornerstone for over 20 years, holding virtually every job with the development group led by brothers Tom and Fred Elghanayan. (A third brother runs Rockrose Development Corp., a rental and condo real estate entity.)
“I was always a believer in this plan and our ability to build something that would attract young adults, families and empty nesters,” says Estevez. “We knew it would happen, but not this fast. This goes to show you what happens when you have an ownership committed to developing a neighborhood.”
Forget words like emerging or up-and-coming. Long Island City has arrived. It makes Murray Hill look unlivable. The retail on Vernon Boulevard, the waterfront, the local bar and restaurant scene and transportation to certain Manhattan neighborhoods are better than sections of the upper East Side, northern echelons of Harlem or parts of the lower East Side.
There’s more to do here culturally than in Hell’s Kitchen. Plus, the views are always better when staring back at Manhattan.
Studios at 4615 start at $2,625, one-bedrooms at $2,730, and two-bedrooms at $3,620. At 4540 — where prices will increase as the building rents — studios cost $2,100, one-bedrooms $2,615, two-bedrooms with one bathroom $3,080 and two-beds with two-baths $3,795.
TF Cornerstone reports all but one penthouse already rented at 4615 Center Boulevard. There are more moms pushing baby carriages than elderly pushing walkers. A school, PS 78, is under construction on the same lot as 4615, set for finish by fall 2013. Yet another building, 4545 Center, will hold 820 apartments, 1,000 parking spots and over 50,000 square feet of amenity space that includes spa, dog run, fitness center, two tennis courts and grass field.
“If we were going to do it, we were going to do it right,” says Estevez. “That means work to get the retail mix right, really focus on the buildings, layouts, interiors, amenities, and spend money on the models. This leasing office is totally paperless. We’re the first to do that. We want to build a community. That was always the intention.”
The structures and master plan are the work of Arquitectonica, a Miami firm with offices in New York, São Paolo and Dubai. It provided for the area unique view corridors, allowing exceptional street vistas of the Manhattan skyline. The master plan incorporated parks, soccer fields, large and small retail, and ensured Center Boulevard loops around to give residents ample sidewalk space and walkways. The buildings are angled to maximize views from lower floors and each apartment.
“When you live in a high-rise, the view replaces your backyard,” says Bernardo Fort-Brescia, a founding principal of Arquitectonica. “With the buildings near the river, it feels like you’re directly over the water. That was intentional.”
“The most important aspect of creating a neighborhood is dictating what happens on the ground floor,” says Fort-Brescia, whose firm designed the Bronx Museum of Arts and coastal towers from San Francisco to South Korea. “The developers and city played a big part by putting in a supermarket, school and parks. A mix is crucial to the success. What family would move to a neighborhood without a supermarket? The quality of the buildings, lobbies and finishes allowed us to design something that will hold up for decades and still be the best product around. These buildings act as servants to the public space. We created a real place here.”
The most vital thing that makes LIC work as a neighborhood is old-school natives active as local land and business owners. They embrace the 3,000-plus new residents. Andrew Anzalone lives with his wife, Rosemary, and kids above the now-closed Cassino restaurant once owned by his parents, Sal and Grace. 47th Ave. is named for his father.
Anzalone put Corner Bistro into the Cassino space and Tribeca Pediatrics into another of his buildings across the street
Longtime transplant Jesse Winter, a photographer, runs Ten10 Studios, an art gallery event space in an old carriage house he rents from Anzalone. Winter moved to Long Island City nine years ago from Williamsburg. He fell in love with it, and met his wife, who works for Doctors Without Borders, at Cassino one night.
Winter’s photographs dress up TF Cornerstone model apartments and hallways designed by Scott Walsh, TFC’s director or market research. Walsh owns a ground-floor one-bedroom with a giant garden in the View, one of his company’s waterfront condo buildings. Immense, the garden is bigger than a suburban backyard, yet it has skyline views.
For Winter, having his work in the TF buildings is an honor.
“I never thought I would be so connected to a neighborhood,” says Winter, whose LICSpot.com blog chronicles local personalities. “I was just an artist taking shots of the neighborhood. Now, my work helps grow the area. There is something special happening here. It’s quaint and big at the same time. People genuinely care about each other. Those who love it really love it.”
Some locals, though, worry the neighborhood hasn’t caught on at night, that high-rise residents use it as a bedroom community. They smirk when they see empty restaurants on a Wednesday night and hear about Brooklyn’s always-crowded streets. Others wish East Coast connected more seamlessly to Vernon Boulevard. They fear poor air and light flow. New renters cite none of that.
“I got a studio with a terrace,” says 4615 renter Glen Keiser, who has a pied-à-terre and works in the area. “How many studios have terraces? When the next building gets built, closest to the water, I’m going to rent there, so I get a better view. After so many years of promising that LIC would deliver, someone finally came through.”