Controversial Development

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Photo by Nathan Kensinger

Yet one more remnant of Queens’ manufacturing past, the West Chemical Building, a.k.a. the CN Building, has been claimed by the gods of redevelopment this week. It’s just one of many manufacturing, storage and warehouse buildings along the array of cul-de-sacs off Jackson Avenue between Queens Boulevard and 21st Street to be repurposed or razed in favor of high-rise luxury housing in recent years.

A five-story poured concrete structure, marked by a siding entering the building, housed the manufacturing plant known variously as “CN Building”, “West Chemical Products”, or “West Disinfectants, ”an arched roof parapet on its east side with a truncated corner. An angled structure, likely containing a conveyor belt connected the building from its left side to a brick/poured concrete three-story building sporting a CN logo in relief.

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In a recent New York Times piece, Daniel L. Doctoroff (who served as the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Rebuilding for the City of New York, and then as the CEO of Bloomberg L.P. until September of this year) emphatically reissued his call to deck over the Sunnyside Yard here in Queens with the intention of erecting some sort of convention center atop it.

As regular devotees of Q’stoner know, I’ve been mentioning Sunnyside Yard over and over for a while now. The Harold Interlocking is found here, which is the busiest rail junction in the entire United States, for instance. You might notice that the Doctoroff plan is actually mentioned in that posting as well, which was published in July of 2013.

There are lots of people who think this is a good idea being proposed. Deck over the yard and build a world class convention center and hotel complex, at Queens Plaza. Add in an “affordable” housing component, or non binding promise to think about building some at least, and only an idiot would oppose it.

I am that idiot.

More after the jump…

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The Court Square Blog noticed an interesting note left on the former 5Pointz building. Apparently the fire department has been trying to inspect the building and has been unable to gain access. The notice, left on June 17, asks the owners–David and Jerry Wolkoff–to contact the fire department immediately or face fines.

It’s unclear if anything has happened since the notice was left. Back in March, the Wolkoffs received their demolition permit and began asbestos abatement, but there has been little activity since then.

Two residential towers will eventually rise on the site of the famed graffiti-covered building.

FDNY Leaves Notice at Inactive Former 5Pointz Building [The Court Square Blog]
Demolition starting up at 5Pointz [Q’Stoner]

Photo: The Court Square Blog

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Vanishing New York published a collection of photos taken by Tim Schreier of the dead zone that now occupies Willets Point. As he told VNY, “What I saw was a few businesses hanging on but, for the most part, it was like a ghost town.” Many of the small auto businesses decided to move to the Bronx. For those that decided to stay, it’s likely the city will use eminent domain to clear the 62 aces of land. And of course, this once diverse, dense collection of auto body shops will be replaced by a mega mall.

Willets Vanishing [Vanishing New York]

Photo by Tim Schreier

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Earlier this year construction workers uncovered graves at the former home of the Saint Mark African Methodist Episcopal Church, on Corona Avenue between 90th Street and 91st Place. The church sold the land to developers, who planned to build condos, a parking lot and commercial space. Once the developers uncovered the gravesite, thought to be those of slaves and their descendants, construction halted.

According to a letter obtained by Queens Crap, the church and the current site owners will meet tomorrow with the Landmarks Preservation Commission to determine the fate of the cemetery. The church, who hopes to preserve the cemetery, outlined three goals: “To leave the recently uncovered graves where they are and not to move or cremate the remains; To have this African American burial site declared a protected landmark; To hold the current owners/construction company responsible for the storage, memorial and re-burial costs of the Iron Coffin Lady as well as a memorial for the recently uncovered bodies as was initially agreed.” (The Iron Coffin lady is former female parishioner buried in an iron coffin uncovered by the construction crew.) The church also reached out to local pols, the state senator, congressman, and the mayor to petition their case.

Landmarking Sought for Elmhurst’s African Methodist Cemetery [Queens Crap]
Construction Halted on Corona Avenue After Developers Uncover Graves [Q’Stoner]

Image via Queens Crap

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A cooperative of 40 to 60 Willets Point businesses signed a lease to leave Willets Point and relocate to Hunts Point in the Bronx, reports the Wall Street Journal. The group — which calls itself the Sunrise Cooperative — is mostly made up of auto body and repair shops. It’s the largest group to leave Willets Point, and in a relocation agreement with the city will be eligible for $2,000,000. Two thirds of 130 Willets Point businesses accepted city benefits to relocate (the city stopped offering any benefits at the end of January), despite many businesses opposing the city’s relocation deal.

Now around 50 businesses remain in the area, still refusing to leave. The city hopes to vacate Willets Point by spring in order to make way for a mega-mall development as well as 2,500 units of housing.

Willets Point Shops Ink Deal [Wall Street Journal]
All Willets Point coverage [Q’Stoner]

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Over the weekend, a number of LIC residents posted photos of continued protest at 5Pointz, the graffiti mecca which is not long for this world. The artists gilf! and BAMN worked together to hang the yellow banner, which reads “Gentrification in Progress,” around the building on Saturday night. The building owners whitewashed the warehouse in November in the face of protest and resistance from 5Pointz artists. And after the whitewashing, six people were arrested for allegedly tagging the building with markers. Demolition started at the infamous graffiti site earlier this month; the warehouse will be replaced with two condo towers.

Artists Collaborate to Hang Banner Outside Former 5Pointz Building [Court Square Blog]
All 5Pointz Coverage [Q’Stoner]

Photo via Twitter

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Construction on a McManion is happening at 146-15 56th Road, and nearby Flushing residents are less than thrilled. The Times Ledger reports that the home, completely legal within the current zoning, replaced a one-family house surrounded by rows of modest townhouses. The new construction will come in at 2,290 square feet; the previous home measured 899 square feet. The next door neighbor to the construction project said, “It has destroyed the neighborhood. If they got permits to do that, what stops others?” Apparently the development, which should wrap this spring, has triggered “a mass exodus” from the block. Residents feel that this construction is just one example of a wider problem throughout the entire neighborhood.

There’s talk from local pols of seeking a rezoning in the area, much like the 2010 Astoria rezoning passed to preserve the existing scale and character of that neighborhood. As Councilman Peter Koo told the Ledger, “I will not stand idly by while the character of our neighborhood is threatened by out-of-scale development. I will be meeting with the Department of City Planning soon to discuss this issue and to explore all possible options, including rezoning, to prevent instances like this from becoming unsightly patterns in our community.”

Flushing Neighbors Blast New House on Block [Times Ledger]

Photo by Alex Robinson for Times Ledger

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Plans to build three chain restaurants on a 100,000-square-foot parcel of land next door to the Queens Center Mall in Elmhurst aren’t making everyone happy. DNAinfo reports that Council Member Daniel Dromm is speaking out against the project, dubbed Queens Way Plaza, due to the lack of involvement with community officials. Community Board Four also believes that the developers, The Mattone Group, handled the details “in secret.” The Mattone Group previously planned to build a large movie theater complex at this site but never found an operator. Plans for a restaurant row emerged two years ago and the Mattone Group expects to open an Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and a Joe’s Crab Shack here this summer. While the project did receive Community Board approval, it hasn’t received extensive community vetting.

According to DNAinfo, the Borough President’s office will hold a meeting for the developers, Council Member Dromm and the Community Board to address the Council Member’s concerns.

Tensions Boil Over About Plans to Build ‘Restaurant Row’ Near Mall [DNAinfo]
Three Chain Restaurants Coming to Vacant Lot Across from Queens Center Mall [Q’Stoner]

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Queens Chronicle shares more details on the lawsuit filed against the Willets Point development by Senator Tony Avella, the New York City Park Advocates organization, local businesses and residents, and The City Club. Initially it was unclear what the lawsuit would charge, but as guessed, the focus is on the loss of parkland to build the mega mall. According to the Chronicle, “The suit charges that the mall, approved by the City Council near the end of former Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s last term, cannot be built without the approval of the state Legislature because the location is parkland.” The lawsuit claims the developer’s plan violates the City Charter and zoning regulations — the goal is to annul city approvals to build the mega mall. And while the Bloomberg administration deemed the plan legal under a 1961 law allowing the construction of Shea Stadium, the lawsuit states that the “interpretation of the law is blatantly incorrect.” It does not look like the lawsuit tackles any issues faced by Iron Triangle tenants, forced to leave the area to make way for development.

The plaintiffs officially filed the suit today in Manhattan.

Suit Challenges Legality of Flushing Meadows Mall Plan in Queens [Queens Chronicle]
Lawsuit Filed to Stop Willets Point Development [Q’Stoner]
All Willets Point Coverage [Q’Stoner]