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Thread: Queens West: Luxury on the Waterfront

  1. #1

    Default Queens West: Luxury on the Waterfront

    Luxury on the Waterfront

    By Janice I. Dixon
    Janice I. Dixon is a freelance writer. She may be reached by e-mail at

    January 4, 2002

    WHEN THE Citylights cooperative apartment complex at Queens Landing welcomed its first residents in 1997, it was an oasis in a residential desert.

    Today, the 42-story luxury high-rise in the Hunters Point section of Long Island City is a popular alternative to Manhattan and an architectural anchor for a blossoming residential enclave along the western Queens waterfront.

    Before moving to the high-rise, Jan Latus, 41, lived for six years in a studio in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan. His monthly rent was $400.

    "It was the only part of Manhattan I could afford," Latus said. "I didn't have many options."

    Proximity to the New York City office of the Polish Daily News, where Latus is editor, was important to him. After Latus was selected as one of the winners of Citylights' initial applicant lottery for moderate-income residents, he got a loan from friends to help him purchase his third-floor apartment for $11,800. Today, comparable Citylights' apartments are on the market for about $120,000, he said.

    "My monthly maintenance fee is $680 and I've never lived as luxuriously in my life," Latus said.

    The life at Citylights includes spectacular views of the Manhattan skyline - it is, across the East River from the United Nations. It has 24-hour uniformed doormen, an on-site health club complete with sauna and daily aerobics classes, video rental in the full-service laundry room, an outdoor deck with tennis courts for summer use, an adjoining parking garage (for an additional monthly charge ranging from $113 to $249), and easy access to Manhattan across the Triboro Bridge or via the No. 7 subway.

    And while the 521-unit building is helping to spur a residential renaissance in Long Island City, it is only the leading edge of a wave of overall renewal. Citylights is a part of a $2-billion master plan for the commercial and residential development of 1.5 miles of Queens West waterfront, with a total of 6,000 units planned in 15 residential buildings to be constructed in the area, according to Michael Marr, spokesman for Queens West Development Corp., a subsidiary of Empire State Development Corp.

    Just south of Citylights, the Bay Riverview building is under construction. Initial occupancy of the 372 rental units is scheduled for April. A full-service grocery story also is envisioned for the area, Marr said, and four commercial buildings are planned.

    "Development of Queens West offers wonderful residential and employment opportunities for New Yorkers," Marr added.

    When Shampa Chanda, 37, an architect with the New York City Department of Planning, first saw the neighborhood in 1996, "it was a dead industrial area, there was nothing happening," she recalled.

    Chanda was generally familiar with Long Island City, having studied the Hunters Point section for her college thesis work at City College of New York. At the time, the area was dominated by old factories and warehouses, with a few residential buildings along Vernon Boulevard.

    During the time that Citylights was under construction in the mid-1990s, Chanda and her husband, V.S. Mani, decided to purchase a property there. They were living in a large, two-bedroom, two-bath apartment on Manhattan's East Side and wanted as much room-and more-for a library and for relatives visiting on extended stays. So they bought two upper-floor units at Citylights and combined them.

    Today, Chanda, a director of the co-op board, enjoys exploring other Queens neighborhoods. The adjustment was initially more difficult for Mani, 37, an Internet company employee. At first, the neighborhood was too isolated, he said, but now he enjoys the reprieve from the hectic environment of Manhattan.

    On a recent Saturday morning, the marble-floored Citylights lobby is bustling with tenants laden with packages, children and pets. Clad in sweat clothes and a baseball cap, Georgette McGriff, 26, starts out to walk her dog. While crossing the lobby from the elevator to the front door, she is stopped several times by neighbors who want to chat with her and frolic with her poodle. McGriff does not mind the delay.

    "The people here are great," she says.

    Outside of the building, the immediate commercial offerings are limited. For groceries, Citylights residents shop at small stores on nearby Vernon Boulevard or trek to Astoria, Jackson Heights or Williamsburg. That was to be expected.

    "All of us knew that we were going to be pioneers when we moved here," said Eric Allemano, 53, an education and human resources management consultant for the UN.

    But basic city services are well in place. The City- lights building at Queens Landing is just a few blocks away from the New York City Police Department's 108th Precinct. And PS 78, also known as the Robert F. Wagner Jr. School for Art and Technology for pre-K through 5-year-olds, is a ground-floor tenant at Citylights.

    "I saw this as a growth area," said Alex Wolf, 35, a City Lights resident who is a broker for Manhattan-based Whitehall Realty and has handled a number of resales at the building. "And for someone in the real estate industry, it's good to be in an area where development is getting started."

    Wolf is a repository of Citylights facts: The building has an 88-percent owner-occupancy rate; maintenance fees-ranging from $500 for studios to $2,600 per month for two-bedroom, two-bath apartments-are 63 percent tax-deductible. He also points out the local cultural assets, such as the Gantry Plaza State Park at the waterfront, with its four piers, including one reserved for fishing; the Socrates Sculpture Park; and the "Soho-like" City Lights Grill on Vernon Boulevard.

    "Everyone benefits from the master plan," Wolf said. "Everyone in the area enjoys the waterfront and nearby homeowners are seeing their property values increase."

    And some of the Citylights' residents are veteran homeowners who have seen much of the city reinventing itself.

    For instance, co-op board president Edward L. Sadowsky, 72, and his wife, Jean, are empty-nesters who were looking to downsize from their home in Beechurst, where they had lived for 30 years. So when Sadowsky, a lawyer and former chairman of the New York City Council Finance Committee, and Jean, a retired journalist, discovered City lights, they decided to buy in, combining two units on the 39th floor.

    "I used to tell people I was moving to an industrial slum," Sadowsky said. "I called myself an urban pioneer," he said. Today the values are up significantly, and the board is in a strong financial position, enabling it to make capital improvements, he said. Moving to Citylights was a "very, very sound decision."

    Sadowsky's sentiment echoes that of co-op director Chanda.

    "The first couple of months I wasn't very happy," she said, somewhat overwhelmed by the industrial environment. Then she began to appreciate the development of the open space in the area and the great views of the city.

    "Now," she notes, "we look out of our windows and say, 'Wow.'"

    Under Construction Along the Riverside

    Just south of the Citylights residential cooperative in Long Island City, phase two of the Queens West Development Corp.'s master plan for residential development is under construction along the 1.5-mile East River waterfront.

    When complete, the 32-story brick building with its glass facade will offer 372 rental units and 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, development director Will Kim said. Additional amenities will include a full-time concierge, a clubhouse overlooking the waterfront (complete with kitchen for resident use), a 2,000-square-foot exercise room with cardiovascular fitness and weight-training areas, and a business center with fax machines and computers for tenants, he added. A putting green on a half-acre landscaped terrace also is planned.

    The project, known as Avalon Riverview, is privately financed, developed, and managed by the Manhattan office of AvalonBay Communities Inc., a Wilton, Conn.-based developer specializing in high-end rental properties in the Northeast since 1993. AvalonBay is well known for pioneering upscale rental complexes amid established bedroom communities on Long Island, including Smithtown, Melville, and soon, Glen Cove.

    "As we started to move into the metro New York area, we tried to pinpoint areas on significant public transportation routes," Tracey Applebaum, vice president, said. AvalonBay also manages rental properties in New Jersey, Connecticut and in Westchester and Rockland counties, according to Applebaum.

    Riverview's leasing office opens in February and initial occupancy is set for the end of April. The developer expects to attract individuals employed in Manhattan with average incomes of $100,000 to $150,000 per household to rent the studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments, and duplexes.

    "It's unusual to get people with Manhattan residential addresses to move to Queens, but Citylights has proved that can happen," said Fred Harris, AvalonBay's vice president of development.

    The rental rates for Riverview have not yet been finalized, Applebaum said.

    Janice Dixon
    Copyright © 2002, Newsday, Inc.

    The view on the Queens West development on 13 September 2001.

    The view from the Gantry Park pier on the East Side of Manhattan.

    Avalon Riverview under construction in September of 2001. The building on the left is Citylights.

  2. #2

    Default Queens West: Luxury on the Waterfront

    I wonder what that area of Queens will look like in 10-15 years...

  3. #3

    Default Queens West: Luxury on the Waterfront

    The big factory with its four chimneys will be a repellent to would-be affluent dwellers. It should be demolished. Although, personally I don't think it's awful.

    The area has got potential for sure; "we look out of our windows and say, 'Wow.'" Who wouldn't ?

  4. #4

    Default Queens West: Luxury on the Waterfront

    The view on the Queens West development on 23 February 2002.

    Gantry Plaza State Park and Citylights.

    Gantry Plaza State Park and Citylights at night.

    Gantry Plaza State Park and at night.

  5. #5
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    Garden City, LI

    Default Queens West: Luxury on the Waterfront

    The Rockrose project (I think about 7 buildings) should be great whenever that's finally going. Does anyone know is there are any solid plans for Office space in QW? *Also, I know the 3 Avalon Bay buildings (Riverview, and 2 others) are rentals. *I hope there are more co-ops and condos built (like Citylights) to really let residents have a stake in the neighborhood. *Any word on the balance of rental v. ownership? *Thanks

  6. #6

    Default Queens West: Luxury on the Waterfront

    billyblanco you should go to
    their forums are mostly of residents or people who are interested in living in the buildings, they know the news on new construction

  7. #7


    September 24, 2003

    Newest Pepsi Challenge: Save the Sign, but Don't Blind the Tenants


    Seven apartment towers will replace Pepsi-Cola's old bottling plant on the East River in Hunters Point, Queens. But the famous sign, visible from Manhattan, will be saved.

    Pepsi-Cola is the spot.

    The Rockrose Development Corporation has acquired the land along the East River in Hunters Point, Queens, where Pepsi-Cola was once bottled, which is still heralded by a 120-foot-long ruby-red sign. Rockrose plans to build 3,200 apartments in seven crisply colorful towers on the 21-acre property.

    Construction is to begin next year, but will not permanently displace the 67-year-old Pepsi sign, an all-but-official city landmark. Its swashes, curlicues and 50-foot soda bottle will form the offbeat signature piece of the $1 billion Rockrose project, within the larger Queens West development site, a 74-acre residential and commercial complex.

    "We think we can arrange the apartment layouts within so that no one looks directly into a letter," said Jon McMillan, director of planning at Rockrose, which is controlled by the Elghanayan brothers — K. Thomas, H. Henry and Frederick. "People can point from Manhattan and say, `I live behind the hole in the P.' "

    The Rockrose project will be distinct in other ways. Instead of constructing traditional-looking masonry buildings, Rockrose plans multifaceted towers, one up to 390 feet tall (about 40 stories), equal in height to the nearby Citylights tower. The first building will have a gridiron facade of white metal and gray and red brick. The design is by Arquitectonica, the architects of the multicolored Westin New York at Times Square.

    On completion, the project will have 3.5 million square feet of space, including a 100,000-square-foot middle school. The buildings will flank a curving road to be known as Center Boulevard, along a four-block stretch of riverfront north of 47th Road. Those on the river side will abut the waterfront park, which is being designed by Abel Bainnson Butz. "You will live in the park, not across the street from it," Mr. McMillan said.

    Nearly two-thirds of the acreage will be open space: parks, landscaped areas, streets and sidewalks. The buildings will occupy slightly more than one-third of the site. Rockrose plans to construct one building a year.

    Mr. McMillan said he expected the project to attract those who work in Midtown and cannot afford a similarly tranquil Manhattan oasis. To the extent that conditions can be predicted in 2005, when the first building opens, he said rents would probably be 20 to 25 percent less than those across the river. Some of the buildings may be condominiums, depending on market conditions.

    Rockrose estimates that it will pay $100 million to prepare the site: $65 million to the Queens West Development Corporation, a subsidiary of the Empire State Development Corporation, to construct bulkheads, streets, parks and utilities; $20 million to PepsiCo for the property; and the rest to meet planning, design and financing costs.

    "It is further evidence that even in a less-than-stellar real estate market, Queens West continues to be a hot property," said Charles A. Gargano, chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation, in a prepared statement.

    The transaction closed Friday and was described yesterday by the participants. Rockrose bought the land from PepsiCo but the title transferred directly to Queens West, which is leasing seven parcels back to Rockrose for 99 years at $1 a year. PepsiCo donated 11.65 acres of waterfront land worth tens of millions of dollars, said Dave DeCecco, a spokesman for Pepsi-Cola North America.

    A key element in negotiations has been the fate of the Pepsi-Cola sign, which was constructed in 1936 and rebuilt in 1994 by the Artkraft Strauss Sign Corporation. "That sign is part of our history and part of the history of New York," Mr. DeCecco said.

    Pepsi moved its bottling operations out of Hunters Point in 1999. But it maintains the sign and will continue to do so, on its own 60-by-200-foot plot, roughly where the sign now stands. The sign is to be dismantled this month and moved 300 feet south. In 2005, it would be re-erected in its permanent setting.

    Although the sign is not an official landmark, the Landmarks Preservation Commission has kept an eye on it since 1988, when it was considered for designation. The commission chairman, Robert B. Tierney, said yesterday that PepsiCo had been "excellent stewards of this well-loved sign," which he called "an iconic part of our cityscape."

    Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

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  10. #10


    Seven apartment towers will replace Pepsi-Cola's old bottling plant on the East River in Hunters Point, Queens. But the famous sign, visible from Manhattan, will be saved.

  11. #11
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    Garden City, LI


    I can't wait. One of the most exciting projects in NYC. Nice to see Rockrose went with some creativity in the design and not just blah brick. These are gonna be scooped up quickly. Condos should sell pretty fast, I would think.

  12. #12
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    Garden City, LI


    BTW, if the rendering is a go, which it seems to be, 5 of the towers look comparable in size to the 390 ft. height mentioned. Could be higher, but I'm not gonna complain.

  13. #13
    Forum Veteran
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    Nov 2002
    New York City


    QueensPort should look nice when it's finished, as well.

  14. #14
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    Jan 2002
    West Harlem


    A bit of the Netherlands in NY.

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