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Long Island City Tries To Find Its Soul Amid Gleaming Skyscrapers

LIC planners and developers take pains to make sure new residents can have a well-rounded life.

By James L. Knobloch November 22, 2016

As a building boom and rocketing rents grip the metropolis, we all need to to chill out from lives that demand we never take our foot off the gas. How can New York itself help the process? Work/life balance is increasingly the goal for city-planners and developers, aware that tightly wound residents need a way to come down from incessant hamster wheel of making money.

Presenting Long Island City.

“There is a real consensus that no one wants all residential; no one wants all commercial or all industrial,” said Jonathan White of White Coffee, a “third generation business that imports, roasts and ships coffee to restaurants, hotels and markets both regionally and nationally.” The company name refers to the coffee itself and not the gentrified residents who drink it.

RelatedHow Long Island City Could Become A Cleaner, Greener Williamsburg

Queen’s westernmost industrial area turned up-and-coming neighborhood is experiencing a boom, both in development and in popularity. Known for its burgeoning arts and food scene, its glitzy new luxury high-rises and its waterfront views of Manhattan—especially from the famed Gantry Plaza State Park, LIC is becoming the perfect haven for those who like to work hard and play harder.

In the last decade alone, Long Island City has gained around 11,000 condos and apartments, with another 20,000+ on the way. Businesses are arriving, too. “JetBlue, Lyft and Uber have opened offices in recent years,” bringing with them a growing number of employees willing and even eager to relocate to the area.

According to the 500+ businesses and organizations that responded to a survey conducted by the Long Island City Partnership, some two-thirds of them plan to remain in the neighborhood for the next five years, and nearly 90 percent anticipate “to maintain or increase their workforce.”

“Live” and “work” are great, but what about “play” and the all-important balance that’s making Long Island City so attractive?  “There is a real need to make it possible to figure out how all the sectors can be here,” said Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership. “We saw so much investment not just in new buildings but new businesses and museums and new parks.”

As is often the case with trendy, resurgent neighborhoods, success becomes a double-edged sword. Just ask the former Brooklyn residents who found themselves priced out…to Manhattan.

“Long Island City today is an unquestionable success story, but with that success comes side effects,” said Seth Pinsky of RXR Realty. “Figuring out how to address those implications in Long Island City gives us a blueprint for how to address those implications in neighborhoods across the city.”

RelatedGentrification Takes The Ferry To Staten Island

Pinsky and Katie Denny Horowitz, the director of development and communications for Long Island City’s popular waterfront Socrates Sculpture Park, believe they have a plan to prevent this potential pitfall, according to the recently released first phase of the Long Island City Partnership’s comprehensive plan.

“What I think the plan hopefully is going to do is interrupt the cycle,” said Horowitz, “and not have what’s happened in SoHo or what has happened in Williamsburg, where people have gotten priced out.”

It’s too early to know if Long Island City will continue to be a delightful New York paradox or fall victim to the seemingly inevitable steamroll of gentrification.

Enjoy your slice of heaven. While you can.

 

 

 

 

James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

A creative professional with a sharp tongue and a big smile, taking on city living one slightly-veiled sarcastic comment at a time. Born and raised just outside of New Orleans, James is a living testament to his own mantra, “Southern hospitality is a privilege, not a right,” giving his work a unique, dry humor meets charm perspective.

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