Maloney, Marshall, Onorato, Nolan, Gioia Express Concern about Slow Progress of Queens Plaza Roadway Rebuilding Project
Long Island City, NY – Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan), Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, State Senator George Onorato (D-Queens), Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Queens) and City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Queens) sent a letter today to Mayor Michael Bloomberg regarding the lack of progress on the Queens Plaza Roadway Rebuilding Project.
In the letter, the elected officials expressed concern about problems with coordination, lack of information about construction start dates and the unprecedented demand by the City that local businesses, through the Long Island City Business Improvement District (LICBID), should shoulder much of the cost of on-going maintenance.
The elected officials asked, given Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff’s resignation, that his successor or someone else at City Hall be given responsibility for coordinating and overseeing the disparate agencies that will be responsible for completing the project. Additionally, since the date for the project’s ground-breaking has slipped from the promised ‘late 2007' announced at a press conference in November 2006, they requested that the City advise them of when the project will commence. Finally, they wrote: “We believe that it might be appropriate to ask the LICBID to assume supplemental costs, but to ask for more than that is unprecedented and unwarranted.... These costs could significantly impact the budget of the LICBID and impose an unreasonable burden on the local businesses that pay its operating costs. It makes no sense to subject these businesses to a special tax for being in Long Island City, particularly at a time when the area is on the verge of developing into a major business destination.”
“Queens Plaza is the gateway to the entire city. The project, once completed, would benefit businesses, pedestrians and commuters alike,” said Congresswoman Maloney. “It will replace traffic snarls, frightening crossing areas and a forbidding landscape with green spaces and improved traffic conditions. Unfortunately, time is slipping by with no real progress and a lot of finger-pointing. It’s time for the City to move forward with this project and drop demands that could reduce this area’s potential growth as a commercial district.”
“We are grateful to Mayor Bloomberg for his steadfast commitment to Queens and Long Island City. Our shared vision for a vibrant Long Island City will be realized when the gateway to our borough, Queens Plaza is fully completed. Our goal is to ensure its implementation without overburdening the local business improvement district,” said Queens Borough President Marshall.
“This project is extremely important to our community, and we need to make sure that it doesn't fall off the radar screen," said Senator Onorato. "Not only do we need to make sure the project gets and stays on track, we need to make sure it is carried out in a way that doesn't overburden our local business community."
“We need to make the revitalization of Queens Plaza a priority, and stop trying to put the squeeze on a developing business community. Instead of increasing the cost of doing business here, City Hall should be improving infrastructure, investing in the community and making this area a true destination point,” said Assemblywoman Nolan.
“Long Island City has so much potential. We’re already seeing it realized on the waterfront, where formerly industrial land has been reclaimed and is now being put to new use as homes, schools and parks. This could happen in Queens Plaza too. With easy access to mass transit, and much lower prices than across the river in Midtown, the area is poised to take off as the City’s next business district. Congresswoman Maloney has already stepped up and secured federal funding to fix up Queens Plaza. The time for the City to act is now,” said Councilman Gioia.
On November 2, 2006, the elected officials joined with Department of City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden to announce that the City had obtained all the funding it needs, including $19.05 million from the federal government, to complete the long-awaited renovation of Queens Plaza. The City of New York was responsible for allocating the rest of the funding for the approximately $22 million project. They also announced that construction on the project would be expected to begin in late 2007.
Working with other members of the New York Congressional delegation, Maloney secured $500,000 for the project in FY2003, $750,000 in FY2004, $1 million in FY2005 and $800,000 in FY2006. Additionally, Maloney ensured that another $6.4 million for Queens Plaza (to be delivered over five years) was included in SAFETEA-LU, the federal government’s five-year highway capital plan, which was passed in 2005. An additional $9.6 million in federal funds were obtained by the Department of City Planning through the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) Program, part of the federal transportation budget approved by Congress.
(Text of the letter follows)
CONGRESSWOMAN CAROLYN B. MALONEY
1651 Third Ave, Suite 311 · New York, NY 10128
BOROUGH PRESIDENT HELEN MARSHALL
120-55 Queens Blvd. · Kew Gardens, NY 11424
STATE SENATOR GEORGE ONORATO
28-11 Astoria Blvd · Long Island City, NY 11102
ASSEMBLYWOMAN CATHERINE NOLAN
61-08 Linden Street · Ridgewood, NY 11385
COUNCILMAN ERIC GIOIA
4701 Queens Blvd., Ste 205
December 19, 2007
The Honorable Michael Bloomberg
Mayor of the City of New York
New York, NY 10007
Dear Mayor Bloomberg,
We are writing to express concern about the fact that the Queens Plaza Roadway Rebuilding Project has not yet gotten underway. As you know, on November 2, 2006 the Department of City Planning (DPC) joined with us to announce that all the funding was in place to commence the project, including $19.05 million in federal funds. At the time, construction was slated to commence in late 2007. Over a year has passed, and there has been little progress and no construction.
First, we understand that Deputy Mayor Dan Doctoroff had become so concerned about the situation that he became personally involved and convened meetings with DPC, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Department of Transportation that seemed to help bring the project back on track. Unfortunately, his resignation may mean that there is no one in place to oversee the progress, and that it may languish without high level attention. We would appreciate it if you would ask his successor or someone else at City Hall to make this project one of his or her top priorities.
Second, local community leaders are concerned that the City still has not publicly stated when work on the project will commence. We have been told that there have been private discussions suggesting that the Jackson Avenue portion of the work would start in April 2008, with the Queens Plaza portion scheduled to begin in July 2008. We would appreciate it if you would advise us when work will actually commence.
Finally, while we understand that progress has been made, we are concerned that this project is still being delayed by an effort to require a local business improvement district, the Long Island City Business Improvement District (LICBID), to assume much of the cost of maintenance. The LICBID has been in existence for only about two years, and this project has been contemplated for nearly ten. Clearly the idea of having the LICBID pay for maintenance is a fairly new one, and one that makes little sense. Although the City designated this area as its fourth central business district in 2001, it is still struggling to fulfill its potential and attract major commercial tenants to the area.
We believe that it might be appropriate to ask the LICBID to assume supplemental costs, but to ask for more than that is unprecedented and unwarranted. Futhermore, we understand that if the LICBID becomes responsible for significant aspects of the maintenance costs, it will assume liabilities that will drive up its insurance costs. These costs could significantly impact the budget of the LICBID and impose an unreasonable burden on the local businesses that pay its operating costs. It makes no sense to subject these businesses to a special tax for being in Long Island City, particularly at a time when the area is on the verge of developing into a major business destination. This extra tax will likely serve as a disincentive to businesses who are considering moving to the area. We believe that all ordinary maintenance costs should be paid from city revenues and not by local businesses. We understand that some good progress has been made in resolving this issue in recent weeks and hope that the city will move forward to conclude the discussions in a way that will benefit the project, local businesses and the fledgling BID.
We look forward to working with you to make the Queens Plaza Roadway Rebuilding Project a reality. We are extremely excited about this project and recognize the extraordinary impact it will have on the community we represent. We hope that all remaining issues can be resolved expeditiously, and that construction will commence as soon as practicable.
Very truly yours,
CAROLYN B. MALONEY, Member of Congress
HELEN M. MARSHALL, Queens Borough President
GEORGE ONORATO, State Senator
CATHERINE NOLAN, Assembly Member
ERIC N. GIOIA, Council Member