LIC Partnership looks to expand

By Alicia Venter

[email protected]

As Long Island City expands, the Long Island City Partnership President Laura Rothrock has her hands full. Beginning in September, Rothrock has taken the mantle of an organization unlike any other in Queens, offering aid to local businesses, members and stakeholders to Long Island City.

The mission of the partnership, which is the neighborhood development organization for Long Island City, is to advocate for the economic development of the community. The partnership is a member and sponsor-based organization.

The partnership, which also manages a business improvement district (BID), which began in 2005, has shown its strength in the past year. In the 2022 fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2021 through June 30, 2022, there were 30 new businesses opened in the BID’s boundaries. That is a record number, which Rothrock noted is interesting given the residual effects of the pandemic.

“It’s been a tricky time economically, but people have long-term confidence in Long Island City, which is great,” Rothrock said.

The BID’s core services include marketing, sanitation, beautification and public safety.

Through their services, 204 businesses were assisted with permit approval, access to financial and payment plans set up with Con Edison within the fiscal year.

“A BID is only a piece of what we do,” Rothrock said. ”We do a lot with a limited budget.”

The LIC BID has a texting service to directly connect with the community regarding their services. Rext LICBID to (929) 269-8848 for more information.

The organization provides business services to six different zip codes, helps community members navigate the city agencies, manages a marketing team and holds events. A key initiative for the partnership is marketing for stakeholders and so locals can see the services offered nearby.

“We’re really unique because we are the most mixed use community in the country,” Rothrock said. “We want to be able to promote that more.”

The partnership has their marquee event soon — the LIC summit is on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The event will be a panel discussion — with speakers including Councilwoman Julie Won and Queen Borough President Donovan Richards — on how being a mixed-use neighborhood has contributed to the resiliency of the community, as well as Long Island City’s future.

The LIC Summit will be held at the Museum of the Moving Image, beginning at 8:30 a.m. Tickets can be purchased through the LIC Partnership website, licqns.com.

There are typically four major events held by the partnership, such as the Real Estate Breakfast held in March. These events, Rothrock said, bring a “signature program” for the partnership.

Working with elected officials such as Won — who is on the board of the partnership automatically as the councilwoman for the area — and the Borough President’s office, the partnership is able to connect with the local residents in the community as well as the businesses it serves.

“Even though we are a business organization, we also want to collaborate with the residents and that we’re promoting the local retail business to the residents,” Rothrock said.

Her last job was as a consultant at Nicholas and Lence Communications. Prior to this, during the Bloomberg Administration, she worked at the Department of Small Businesses Services and managed the BID Program. As such, she has experience both as a private consultant and within the government.

The organization is working on two BID expansions, one towards the west and one to the east, past Sunnyside Gardens. Stakeholders outside of the Long Island City BID boundaries expressed the need for supplemental services, the partnership website stated, to address the changing needs of the neighborhood. If all goes through, the BID assessment budget will double through this growth.

It will be under “the BID umbrella,” Rothrock said, but given the difference in the neighborhoods, each sub-district needs its own budget and planning to meet its needs.

The expansion to the east is in the industrial area of Long Island City, and it has no residents.

“For all intents and purposes, we’re one BID, but [the east expansion] will have its own budget and slightly different services, because the services needed in the industrial area are different,” Rothrock said.

It is a very lengthy process to expand the BID, Rothrock said, beginning with a planning phase that took the partnership approximately two years to complete.

The outreach phase has begun, which included four public forums, and soon the planning will enter the legislative phase.

Rothrock’s experience prior to becoming President allowed her to transition easily into the role.

The biggest controversy in Long Island City is Innovation QNS, which the partnership has expressed support of through testifying at the city council meetings.

“We’re hoping that they reach an agreement, because it really would be a missed opportunity if the project didn’t go through,” Rothrock said.

However, Rothrock expressed how the organization is apolitical and non-partisan — Innovation QNS does not fall within the boundaries of the BID, and they purely look at the project as a way for the community to grow economically, as well as gain quality of life improvements such as new open space.

More information about the LIC Partnership can be found at www.licqns.com

Newtown Creek Alliance demands action to open creek

Public Land for Public Use’

Hidden behind a chain link fence and construction sites in Long Island City, the beginning of Newtown Creek is easily forgotten by nearby residents. The shoreline on 29th Street at the Dutch Kills tributary is often overlooked. However, the Newtown Creek Alliance has made it their mission to ensure that its inaccessibility and unappealing, debris-filled appearance does not allow it to be ignored or disregarded.

Council Member Julie Won leads organizers in the chant “Public Land for Public Use”

In a press conference on Friday, July 15, organizers from the Newtown Creek Alliance called upon elected officials — specifically State Governor Kathy Hochul and Mayor Eric Adams — as well as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the NYC Department of Transportation, and the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation, to address unsafe conditions of the bulkhead and adjacent roads, rebuild the shoreline, and incorporate public access to the water.

Newtown Creek stretches between Queens and Brooklyn, eventually flowing into the East River. It is nearly four miles long and is comprised of five small branches: Maspeth Creek, Whale Creek, the East Branch, the English Kills, and the Dutch Kills. The latter of which, the Dutch Kills Shoreline, is where the Newtown Creek Alliance and members of the Long Island Community, demand action for what has been deemed dangerous and deteriorating conditions around and in the water.

Currently, the street neighboring the Dutch Kills tributary in Long Island City is owned by the MTA, and it is used by DOT.

Among the elected officials who attended the press conference include Councilwoman Julie Won, Borough President Donovan Richards, and Assemblyman-elect Juan Ardila.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. gives his full support for making the Dutch Kills tributary accessible, saying he is “not a fair weather friend.”

As Frederick Douglass so eloquently put it, without struggle there is no progress,” Richards said under some heavy summer heat. “This is going to be a long struggle, but I want you to know that you have my 2000 percent commitment. I am not a fair-weather friend. As you can see, I will be with you when it’s hot, when it’s raining, when it’s storming and when the snow is out to make sure that we get this done.”

The bulkhead shoreline on the MTA-owned street is collapsing into the waterway, with the most recent taking place in February 2022. Following this collapse, the Newtown Creek Alliance sent a letter to the heads of the MTA, DOT, and the DEC to take action to restore the tributary.

Given the ownership of the land by MTA (Block 115, Lot 86); the use of the property as a through street managed by NYC DOT (29th street); and NYS DEC’s regulatory authority regarding waterway pollution and shoreline construction, we firmly believe that all three agencies have an obligation to address this issue,” the letter reads.

The letter continues on to detail what the creek needs to be revitalized, placing further responsibility upon the MTA for the creek’s continued destruction. In the EPA’s Superfund investigation, the MTA/LIRR was named a “potentially responsible party” for the tributary’s decline.

Given this potential liability that MTA/LIRR has in contributing to the historic contamination of Newtown Creek, we believe that DEC has an even stronger obligation to require a shoreline redesign that incorporates ecological benefits such as intertidal habitat, as well as public access to this historically damaged and inaccessibly waterway.”

LaGuardia Community College can be found directly next to the Dutch Kills, and leaders within the college’s community have expressed complete support for the demands of the Newtown Creek Alliance. Faculty and students do research on the waters of Newtown Creek, however, they currently have to travel several miles from campus to access the water and collect the samples, despite having the creek directly behind the college’s C building.

Kenneth Adams, the president of LaGuardia Community College, said he felt “extremely confident” that Newtown Creek would be transformed.

Representing the college at the press conference was its president, Kenneth Adams.

Let me just recommit LaGuardia Community College as an anchor institution in Western Queens,” Adams said. “We recommit to this project, and to do all we can in partnership with our elected officials and all of [the] advocates to make it happen. It’s going to happen.”

Newtown Creek, however, is currently unsafe for any potential LaGuardia College students or local swimmers. Until the second half of the 20th century, industries would dispose of their unwanted chemicals or byproducts into the waters with little-to-no government regulation. The natural depth of the creek once was 12 feet, but now can be as shallow as four feet in some places.

In 2010, Newtown Creek was named a Superfund site by the Environmental Protection Agency. Through this designation, the creek became part of a program that works to mediate some of the nation’s most contaminated areas.

Hanging along the fence encompassing the creek were the community-led plans for the site, shown for the first time to the public. These plans include a salt marsh, terraced seating, and benches so the creek could be used and admired by residents.

For more information on the proposed future and further advocacy of the Newtown Creek Alliance, visit www.newtowncreekalliance.org.

Queens Rising at the Gantries

A light drizzle couldn’t stop the month-long celebration of arts and culture in the borough, with Queens Rising making its way to Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City last weekend.

Sunday’s day-long event, with a view of midtown Manhattan as the backdrop, featured live performances from R&B group Gentleman of Soul, pioneering Bhangra artist and activist DJ Rekha, jazz vibraphonist Joel Ross and the Cumbia River Band.

With over a dozen food truck vendors lined up for the free event, the weekend’s live entertainment marks the halfway point of the multi-disciplinary arts celebration throughout the month of June.

Upcoming events as part of Queens Rising include a “Dance Day” at the Queens County Farm Museum on Saturday, June 18, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as an ongoing free outdoor concert series at Culture Lab LIC on Thursdays through Sundays.

For a complete list of events this month, visit Queensrising.nyc.

Some of the live music featured at Queens Rising at Gantry State Park in LIC

Elizabeth Lusskin departing LIC Partnership

After eight years, Lusskin will take executive role with Empire State Development

By Journal Staff
[email protected]

Elizabeth Lusskin is departing from her role as the long-time president of the Long Island City Partnership, and executive director of the Long Island City Business Improvement District. Next month, she will be named executive vice president of small business and technology development with the Empire State Development Corporation.

Since joining the LIC Partnership in October 2013, Lusskin has helped promote the neighborhood’s industrial, commercial, residential, tech, social service and cultural assets through a variety of successful programs, initiatives, and events.

“Getting to lead LICP and the LIC BID during this pivotal period in the history of LIC has been the greatest honor,” Lusskin said. “This is a truly fabulous community, encompassing everything a true ‘city’ would require — from industry to culture to residential — and a diversity of people, sectors, and community leadership that is unparalleled. We have a first-rate, mission driven staff and highly engaged boards of directors. I am so proud of all we have accomplished over the last eight years, both as a neighborhood and as an organization, and I can’t wait to see what comes next for both.”

During her tenure, she helped oversee the expansion of the LIC BID to more than double its size. Created in 2005, the original LIC BID expanded in 2017 to include commercial corridors along Jackson Avenue, Vernon Boulevard and 44th Drive. The LIC BID is managed by the LIC Partnership and also provides beautification initiatives throughout the community.

In addition to her role at LIC Partnership, Lusskin serves as the co-chair of the NYC BID Association and is a member of the Queens Tech Council and NYC Workforce Business Council, among others. She served on economic development transition committees for both Mayor Eric Adams and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Jr., and was co-chair of the Sunnyside Yard Master Plan Steering Committee and co-chair of the Amazon Community Advisory Committee Project Plan Committee.

In her upcoming role with the Empire State Development Corporation, Lusskin will direct a large portfolio of grant, loan and incentive programs, and will report to its newly appointed president, Hope Knight, who has most recently served as the president and CEO of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation.

Lusskin’s last day with the LIC Partnership is May 24 and she will assume her role with Empire State Development on June 1. The Partnership’s board will govern the organization until a successor is identified; a start date is expected this summer.

Current and former colleagues praised Lusskin’s dedication to the LIC community and wished her good luck in her next endeavor.

“The Long Island City Partnership has been so fortunate to have Liz Lusskin at its helm during the past decade of unprecedented growth. Liz leaves the LIC community and the organization well positioned for its next great chapter,” said Patricia Dunphy, senior vice president of Rockrose and LIC Partnership board chair.

“The LIC BID has grown and thrived under the leadership of Liz Lusskin. I have truly enjoyed working with Liz to improve this wonderful neighborhood! Our entire community is grateful for her hard work and creativity, all of which will be put to good use in her next chapter with ESD,” said David Brause, president of Brause Realty and LIC BID Chair.

“Liz Lusskin’s legacy in Long Island City is one of leadership, innovation and growth. I could not be happier for her as she takes her immense talents to Empire State Development, where she will surely continue to deliver real results for our businesses and our families across the state,” Queens Borough President Donovan Richards said. “Queens is a stronger borough because of Liz’s time with the Long Island City Partnership, and I look forward to our continued partnership as she transitions into her new role at ESD, led by organization president and fellow Queens luminary Hope Knight.”

“Throughout Liz Lusskin’s time at the helm of Long Island City Partnership, she has been a steadfast and dedicated partner in transforming Long Island City to the bustling hub of arts, culture and business it is known as today,” U.S. Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney said. “I am thrilled she will be joining Empire State Development as Executive VP for Small Business and Technology Development, and she will bring to New York State the same vision and ingenuity she has brought to Long Island City and Western Queens.”

“Liz Lusskin’s leadership, vision, and tenacity have helped transform Long Island City into a thriving, mixed-use neighborhood and a great place to live, work, play and own a business,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Thomas Grech said. “Liz has been a valuable resource to me and my team and a trusted partner in all things Long Island City. While we are sad to see her leave the LIC Partnership, we are thrilled she is joining Empire State Development as Executive VP for Small Business and Technology Development. Her tireless advocacy for small businesses, particularly in the technology sector, make her ideal for this position.”

LIC Bulbfest livens up the East River Waterfront

Although leaves are falling off trees as New York City settles into autumn, the season is still a perfect time for New Yorkers to plant flowers and enjoy their outdoor spaces.
This past weekend, the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy hosted its annual LIC Bulbfest. Volunteers planted 16,000 new bulbs in Gantry Plaza State Park and Hunters Point South Park, which will bloom once spring arrives.
Since its inception seven years ago, the LIC Bulbfest event has planted nearly 42,000 bulbs in the two parks, many of which continue to bloom year after year.
“We are very excited to continue this LIC tradition for a seventh season,” said conservancy president Rob Basch. “The parks have never looked better, and we all look forward to our community turning out once again to contribute to keeping our parks the special place they have become.”
All of the bulbs for the event were donated by the Van Zyverden Company, while additional funding was contributed by corporate sponsors, including Amazon.
“This event is such a fun opportunity for our community to get together and experience the park,” said Carley Graham Garcia, Amazon’s head of External Affairs for New York City. “We’re looking forward to enjoying these blooms with our neighbors across the metro area in the spring.”
Dozens of volunteers attended this year’s event, making it one of the largest in the Hunters Point Parks Convervancy’s history despite ongoing COVID considerations.
Although the past year and a half have been difficult, Basch and the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy team remain committed to maintaining Western Queens’ green spaces for the community and future generations.
“Last year was challenging with a lot of illegal activity in the park,” Basch explained. “People were drinking outside and having raves until 3 a.m. because they weren’t able to meet anywhere else.
“There are going to be a ton of new people coming to the neighborhood, and we have a strong desire to keep the parks clean and safe for the future,” he added. “You need a strong conservancy to maintain these spaces.”

Skyline Tower takes LIC to new heights

Rising high above Long Island City, Skyline Tower officially became Queens tallest building when it topped off in 2019. However, this new development is impressive for reasons beyond its height.
Developed by Queens-based United Construction & Development Group, Skyline Tower aims to enhance both the skyline and community of Western Queens.
“For us, we were always trying to do a building that was pushing the boundaries,” said William Xu, vice president of United Construction & Development Group. “That’s why we wanted to build the tallest building in Queens.”
In addition to height, United Construction & Development Group was focused on giving people the opportunity to invest in Long Island City and the greater Queens community.
“There have been a lot of other buildings going up in LIC, but a lot of those buildings are rentals only,” Xu explained. “Up until this point there was not a building of this scale that was a condo building where people could actually buy units.
“Long Island City does get a lot of people from out of the borough who are transplants, but they always live in these rentals and leave, which is making this area a lot like Manhattan,” he added. “We believe that if you want a community to grow, you have to allow people to buy into the area. It was a big risk, but we had faith that people would make LIC their home.”
Designed by Hill West Architects and Whitehall Interiors, and located at 23-15 44th Drive, Skyline Tower rises 67 stories. The building’s 802 condominium units have been on sale since 2018, including studios, one-bedroom, two-bedrooms, three-bedrooms, and penthouse residences running from $500,000 to $4 million.
The mixed-use development includes commercial space on the ground floor and sublevels, as well as a bevy of amenities for residents. These include a 75-foot lap pool, cedar-planked sauna, pet spa, children’s playroom, and business fitness centers.
However, Skyline Tower’s biggest selling point is its transit-rich location. Situated directly above the Court Square subway station, which serves the E, G, M, and 7 trains, the building offers direct access to the underground station, making it effortless for residents to commute into Manhattan, Brooklyn, or elsewhere in Queens.
Building above a subway station presents a unique set of challenges, and required United Construction & Development Group to work alongside the MTA. Together, the company and agency enhanced portions of the station and installed a new, ADA-compliant glass elevator, transforming Court Square into one of the most accessible stations in the city.
“We always want to not only come into the community, but also enhance it,” Xu said. “The cost of the subway station alone was almost $16 million, but it’s very important to understand that what makes a project successful is the neighborhood. Investing into the neighborhood is, in a way, investing into your property.”
United Construction & Development Group has worked on a number of projects throughout Queens, including Parkside Tower in Flushing, Fairfield Inn by Marriott near LaGuardia Airport, and the forthcoming Justice Avenue Tower in Elmhurst.
None of these projects come close to rivalling the scope of Skyline Tower, yet they taught United Construction & Development Group important lessons about investing in and strengthening local communities.
“We’ve been developers all over Queens since the beginning of our company,” explained Xu, who grew up in Bayside and Little Neck. “Because of that we know the areas and the neighborhoods and we know this is what we can do best.”
When United Construction & Development Group originally bought the lot where Skyline Tower now stands, they were bidding against massive companies from Manhattan and beyond. While he may never be sure for certain, Xu believes they won the bid because of their reputation and dedication to being a hometown developer.
“I’m not sure if we were the highest or the lowest bid, but I think we were chosen because we were from Queens and knew these neighborhoods,” he said. “Where better to develop than in your own backyard, where you know it better than anywhere else? Queens is our home and that’s where we feel we do the best.”

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