Hunter's Point South: The Sprawling Jewel Of The LIC Waterfront
City Has Teamed With Private Developers To Transform Area Via New Housing, Park And Schools
by Rey Mashayekhi
Nestled on the Long Island City waterfront, Hunter’s Point South has become one of the most visible examples of how public and private interests can team up to transform swaths of New York City for the better.
Having broken ground in 2013 – on the back of a 2008 rezoning spearheaded by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office – the 30-acre site will eventually hold up to 5,000 residential units, including a sizable 60 percent affordable housing component. Along with that much-needed housing comes equally vital public infrastructure, and the project has also delivered in this regard – via a sprawling 11-acre public park, several new schools and thousands of square feet of new retail, commercial and community space.
The first, now-completed portion of the project’s first phase features a two-towered, 925-unit, entirely affordable housing complex developed by one of the city’s largest private developers, Related Companies, in partnership with Monadnock Construction and Phipps Houses. While the Related development was originally slated to only feature 75 percent affordable units, the city announced in 2011 that the entire complex would be 100 percent affordable.
The buildings – Hunter’s Point South Crossing, a 32-story, 306-unit tower; and Hunter’s Point South Commons, a 37-story, 619-unit complex – are nestled next to each other between Borden and 50th avenues and were completed last year. The affordable housing lottery for units at the properties, which closed in December 2014, received an astounding 93,000 applicants, and it’s easy to see why – in addition to their location in the heart of the Long Island City waterfront, amenities include fitness centers and children’s playrooms at both buildings, a lounge featuring an outdoor terrace at Hunter’s Point South Crossing, a roof garden and a sun terrace at Hunter’s Point South Commons and an “urban farm” open to residents across the entire complex.
The first phase of Hunter’s Point South also saw the completion of a new 1,100-seat school building at 1-50 51st Avenue, which opened in 2013 and has helped assuage resident concerns about a lack of public school facilities in the area. The 52-classroom building is shared by three separate schools – the Academy for Careers in Television and Film; the Riverview School; and Hunter’s Point Community Middle School.
But the crown jewel of public infrastructure improvements at Hunter’s Point South is the planned 11-acre waterfront park nestled right on the East River and served directly by the city’s ferry services – making it accessible to New Yorkers from across the city. At a cost of more than $66 million including new streets and surrounding infrastructure, the park hasn’t come cheap, but it provides Long Island City residents with needed public green space featuring breathtaking, unobstructed views of the Manhattan skyline.
Mayor Bloomberg opened the first, 5.5-acre phase of the park in August 2013, and it has already proven a sensation. The ovular greenspace at the center of the first phase – described as a “charm bracelet” by architect Marion Weiss, whose firm Weiss/Manfredi teamed with Thomas Balsley Associates to design the park – is regularly packed with tourists, residents and passerby, while the prominent white canopy sprawled over the park’s pavilion has fast become an iconic feature of the LIC waterfront. In a testament to the park’s draw as a space for public events and gatherings, roughly 3,000 people turned out in April for a rally held by Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign on the eve of the New York primary elections.
But like the park itself – which will include an as-yet-unfinished second phase – Hunter’s Point South as a project is far from complete. In 2013, the city chose developer TF Cornerstone – no stranger to the Long Island City real estate market – to build out the final parcel in development’s first phase, which sits between Borden and 54th avenues and will include nearly 1,200 new residential units (approximately 700 of them designated affordable). TF Cornerstone ran into some unexpected issues at its project site earlier this year, when the developer discovered an Amtrak tunnel and power lines running beneath the property, according to Crain’s. The company subsequently reshuffled its plans, pushing the project’s start back to next year and adding a new 600-seat elementary school to the site at the urging of local officials.
The Related- and TF Cornerstone-built phase of the project aside, there is also an entire second phase of the development that will hold nearly 3,000 additional residential units. In June, the city’s Department for Housing Preservation and Development announced a request for proposals to develop two parcels at the southern tip of Hunter’s Point South, with a tentative outline for at least 750 apartments (at least 450 of them affordable), retail space, yet another new school and additional community space (to be leased for nonprofit or medical purposes).
Proposals for the two southern parcels were due this fall, and the city is expected to announce the winners early next year – with the likes of TF Cornerstone, Two Trees Management, and Rockrose Development said to be in the running.
Amazingly, these plans still don’t account for another two parcels at Hunter’s Point South (between 54th and 56th avenues) that are currently being used to stage construction equipment. Those two properties would help push Hunter’s Point South ever closer to the city’s goal of 5,000 residential units in total, and their development would be accompanied by the completion of the second phase of the waterfront park, which will extend south toward Newtown Creek and bring even more greenspace, amenities and scenic views to the neighborhood.
While work is far from finished and completion remains several years off in the future, there are high hopes for what the city believes will be the crown jewel of the new, revitalized Long Island City – a vibrant, bustling waterfront neighborhood that provide needed affordable housing and prove a testament to what public planning, when teamed with the private sector, can achieve.
“We’re building a new neighborhood from the ground-up, from is streets to its parks to its transit,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said upon the groundbreaking of Phase II of Hunter’s Point South last fall. “This is going to be the biggest affordable housing project built in a generation, and it’s going to ensure that this corner of Queens – despite all the market pressures driving up rents – will remain a diverse place for working people.”