Court Square Civic Association
DOT LOT.jpg

Take Action: Public Air Rights Transfer to Private Developer in Court Square

 DOT Lot on Jackson and Dutch Kills Street

DOT Lot on Jackson and Dutch Kills Street

BACKGROUND:

The Department of Housing and Preservation Development (HPD) has struck a deal to transfer 356,497 sq. ft. of air rights from underutilized DOT lots in Court Square to a private developer who will construct two large towers on Jackson Avenue. The air rights swap represents a transfer of public rights for private use with the purported goal of increasing affordable housing in LIC and meeting Mayor DeBlasio's aggressive affordable housing goals.

Court Square has experienced explosive growth in the past decade. Originally envisioned as a back-office district for Manhattan, our neighborhood has instead become a densely-populated 24/7 residential community with a dearth of public and green space. We have been calling on the DOT to re-envision their lots into much needed public space for our community but our requests have fallen on deaf ears. This is the only sliver of public land left in our neighborhood.

Instead of engaging with the community on how to best use our public air rights and make converting the lots into public space part of this deal, the City is once again increasing the density of Court Square with no immediate benefit for our neighborhood. 

THE ISSUE:

 Air Rights Transfer Detail

Air Rights Transfer Detail

The two lots HPD is transferring rights from are unbuildable as they are intersected by the Queensboro bridge on-ramps. The DOT would only be able to build on these lots if they tore down the bridge approaches - something we would likely never see in our lifetimes. Meaning these air rights would've never turned into a structure if it wasn't for this deal.

Why is the city transferring air rights from an unbuildable lot to a private developer and increasing the density of our neighborhood with no immediate tangible benefit for Court Square?

Should this air rights transfer be approved the two towers will be 25 and 49 stories, instead of the10-15 stories they would've risen to based on current zoning guidelines.

Additionally, the formula being used to calculate the amount of affordable housing being produced by this transfer is misleading. The developer claims that 42% of the units will be affordable, but they're only talking about 42% of the incremental square footage from the increased air rights (that is 42% of the 356,497 sq. feet), not the total square footage. We encourage and need socioeconomic diversity in our neighborhood but this math doesn't add up. All of the incremental air rights should be used for affordable housing. 

WHERE WE ARE:

The project has been officially certified by the Department of City Planning and has moved into the the public review steps of the ULURP process. The project will go before Queens Community Board 2, the LIC community, and will then make its way through the the Queens Borough President's office, City Planning Commission, The City Council, and the Mayor's Office for final approval.

The good news is this is not a done deal, we have the opportunity to weigh in.

OUR ASK:

  • The City must convert the vacant DOT lots - and all of the property under the ramps - into public space. Feasible proposals must be shared with the community before any air rights transfer is approved. Examples of what we envision here.
  • HPD must revisit the Affordable Housing formula and needs to provide more clarity around the income requirements. Consideration needs to be given to making sure these units fall within the Low Income Marketplace Program (LAMP). 

WHAT YOU CAN DO:
You can take action in three ways.

  1. Write or call officials and community groups; a simple email goes a long way in amplifying our community's voice.

    Sample Email:

    Dear ________,

    I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed air rights transfer from the DOT Lots on Jackson Avenue to the Lions Group (ULURP numbers below). This air rights transfer increases the density of our neighborhood with no public benefit outside of a few units of affordable housing. Before we need more tall structures, we need investment in public spaces where we can create community. Additionally, the affordable housing formula in this transfer must be given more scrutiny as it only accounts for 42% of the incremental square footage being added by the transfer, not the entire building.

    The DOT lots represent an opportunity for the City to make up for its poor planning in LIC and our community's demands have not been factored into this air transfer. HPD and DOT need to engage our community in how to best use OUR public resources.

    I hope you take into consideration the real needs of our community and reject the current proposal that's on the table.

    ULURP Numbers: 180385 PPQ, 180382 ZSQ, 180383 ZSQ, 180386 PPQ, 180384 ZSQ (27-01 Jackson Ave and 26-32 Jackson Ave.)

    Thank You,

    Name
    -----
    Emails:
    Jimmy VanBramer, Councilmember: JVanBramer@council.nyc.gov
    Irving Poy and Melva Miller, Queensborough President's Office: ipoy@queensbp.org, mmiller@queensbp.org
    Cathy Nolan, Assemblywoman: nolanc@assembly.state.ny.us
    Michael Gianaris, State Senator: gianaris@nysenate.gov
    Community Board 2: qn02@cb.nyc.gov
     
  2. Attend the Community Input Meeting being held in Court Square
    This is an open forum - come have your voice heard! 

    Wednesday, May 30th
    6:30 PM (Doors Open at 6PM)
    CUNY Law School
    2 Court Square West, LIC
    RSVP on our FB Event
     
  3. Attend the June CB2 meeting and voice your opposition to this project during the public comments portion of the meeting.
    Thursday, June 7th
    7 PM
    Sunnyside Community Services
    43-31 39th Street, Sunnyside


THANK YOU for reading  this far and for being an active member of our community. We look forward to working together to advocate for the needs of our neighborhood. 

Additional background: 

https://newyorkyimby.com/2016/05/in-long-island-city-site-cleared-at-jackson-west-27-01-jackson-avenue-no-progress-yet-at-jackson-east-at-26-32-jackson-avenue.html

https://licpost.com/2-big-towers-likely-to-go-up-in-lic-following-air-rights-deal-struck-with-city

https://jorgefontan.com/air-rights-nyc-development-rights/