All neighborhoods are somewhat in thrall to Manhattan, but Long Island City is haunted by it. By day, it’s noisy with the squeal and clatter of elevated trains, the rumble of delivery trucks on the 59th Street Bridge and the hum of subways beneath the sidewalks—a cacophony of people and paraphernalia, all shuttling across the East River. In the evening, the neighborhood is illuminated by the pale glow of Midtown skyscrapers and the streets hue yellow with the tide of returning taxis.
That Long Island City should be the next up-and-coming neighborhood has seemed obvious for decades; New York magazine christened it the next hot neighborhood in 1980, an imprimatur it would not give to Williamsburg for 12 more years. “Plainly, something is happening in Long Island City,” the magazine wrote and plainly, something was. Condos and chic restaurants were in the works, giddy developers were throwing around phrases like “Soho-plus” and “oil field,” and Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman were zipping over to play afternoon games at Tennisport. Its vast stretches of sparsely populated land were so obviously ripe for redevelopment that its ascendance seemed all but inevitable—a fait accompli that for reasons no one ever quite seems able to account for has always fallen just short of accompli.
In the decades since, it has been called the next Williamsburg, the next Dumbo, the next Bushwick, Astoria-lite and, most inelegantly, “Fort Greene 10 years ago”—its arrival just as inevitable and just as elusive as it has always been, a thing that must be and yet is not.
The past decade has been the best of times—and the worst of times—in real estate. The recession cut access to capital, leading to slow development growth in New York. Fortunately, developers and buyers are coming back with a vengeance. As 2013 draws to a close, The Observer looked back at some of the challenges and high points of the past year, and what we have to look forward in the very near future. This is what’s in and what’s out in the New York market. Read More
TF Cornerstone has prevailed in its bid to build the second phase of Hunter’s Point South, the massive, middle-income housing complex on the Long Island City waterfront. TF Cornerstone, who lost out to the Related Companies to build the first phase in 2011, will partner with Selfhelp, a senior citizen non-profit, on the second phase, to build two towers designed by the ODA, with SLCE Architects as the architect of record.
The Department of Housing Preservation and Development announced its selection this afternoon, which it made after putting out an RFP; TF Cornerstone has extensive experience in the neighborhood, having developed the seven market-rate residential towers on the former Pepsi-Cola site, the last of which is slated to open sometime next year.
In further confirmation of the stroller army’s successful invasion of Long Island City, New York Kids Club signed a 15-year, 5,003-square-foot lease at 4545 Center Boulevard.
The private “enrichment center” for preschool children will open by the LIC waterfront in September 2014 in TF Cornerstone‘s new mixed-use high-rise. This space–the tenant’s first in Queens–will offer preschool classes as well as after school, art, music and fitness programs.
THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Back in 2011, AvalonBay abandoned plans to build a 44-story, 700-unit rental building on the block south of West 57th Street between Eleventh and Twelfth Avenues. TF Cornerstone was rumored to be interested in the site, and it turns out the rumors were true: the Manhattan-based developer now wants to build a 45-story, 1,189-unit residential tower on the same site, according to documents filed with the Department of City Planning.
If approved, the project would contain a total of 1.2 million square feet of floorspace, with 42,000 square feet set aside for commercial use and a 550-space underground parking garage. Of the apartments, 20 percent—238 units—would be set aside as affordable housing under the city’s inclusionary zoning program.
The Meatpacking District is now as dead as the cattle carcasses that once poured blood onto its cobblestone streets. The last independent meat supplier in a neighborhood that once has more than 200 has moved into a city-controlled co-op in the neighborhood, the last redoubt of steaks and chops in the area. Weischel Beef is being replaced with—yep—more high-end retail, according to The Real Deal.
With three dozen projects underway in Long Island City, the brothers behind Rockrose Development—two of whom split to form TF Cornerstone in 2009—are poised to compete against one another for prize renters and retailers in what is rapidly becoming Queens’s answer to Williamsburg and Dumbo. TF Cornerstone chairman Thomas Elghanayan spoke to The Commercial Observer about the EastCoast, his firm’s waterfront rental complex, the infamous Rockrose Development coin toss, and his tense relationship with brother Henry Elghanayan, chief executive of Rockrose Development.
The Power Broker
In 2009, the brothers behind the Rockrose Development Corporation—Henry, Thomas and Frederick Elghanayan—divided their four-decade business partnership in half, with Frederick and Thomas spinning off to form TF Cornerstone, and Henry staying put at Rockrose with his son, Justin Elghanayan, 33. Since that relatively amicable split, in which the company’s $3 billion empire was divided in half, Henry Elghanayan has rebuilt the portfolio and elevated his son, who has taken the reins as the project manager of Linc LIC, a development in Long Island City, Queens, scheduled to include two residential towers and a retail complex that, when finished in 2013, could breathe new life into the long-simmering neighborhood. Last week, Justin Elghanayan spoke to The Commercial Observer about his family’s recent split, the future of Rockrose and his Long Island City project, which includes what could be the tallest building in Queens.
Steven Baker built a life, and staked his career, on the Far West Side of Manhattan at a time when the High Line still languished as an abandoned freight track and nearly every block west of Ninth Avenue included a warehouse, garage or parking lot.
While other brokers followed dollar signs in Midtown and across Madison Avenue, Mr. Baker, then a young broker living in a Ninth Avenue bachelor pad, saw potential in the dusty warehouses and loading docks he walked past in the summer of 2000.
“I knew I wanted to control the neighborhood,” recalled the 40-year-old Mr. Baker, now a managing partner at Winick Realty, who has played a leading role in transforming the area.
Condo sales might be super sluggish in Long Island City, but maybe the first indoor cycling studio will get things moving.
Crank Cycling Studio will occupy 800 square feet for 10 years at “The View” at 4630 Center Boulevard, which is distinguished from every other new building in the neighborhood only by Read More