long island city

The Tragic Death and Lasting Legacy of Five Pointz

(courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Just across Newtown Creek in Long Island City stood an abandoned industrial site that many considered the world’s greatest treasury of graffiti art. Tragically demolished in 2013, the world-famous Five Pointz consisted of twelve factory buildings ranging in height from a single story to five floors. The name Five Pointz referred both to the five boroughs of New York City and to the notorious 19th century Manhattan slum of the same name. Five Pointz grew so famous that tourists from around the world journeyed to Long Island City to photograph the amazing examples of graffiti art that adorned its many exterior walls, but the famous complex would not have a long life and would die a tragic death.

(courtesy of Jules Antonio/Flickr)

Located at 45–46 Davis Street, the buildings, which were constructed in 1892, once housed a water meter factory, but the water meter plant was long by the early 1970s when developer Jerry Wolkoff bought the abandoned factory and leased space inside to industrial firms. In 1990, hungry for new tenants, Wolkoff granted permission for artists to cover the exterior walls with art and by the 1990s artists attracted to the area by the low rents began to rent interior spaces in the building. Soon, aerosol artists began to cover the exterior walls with their colorful and creative murals. Initially called the Phun Factory, the building was renamed “5 Pointz” in 2002 when graffiti artist Jonathan Cohen began curating the exterior murals. The murals’ fame spread and Cohen even conceived plans to turn the huge complex into a museum of graffiti art. The former industrial complex attracted elite aerosol artists who arrived from all over the United States and even around the world, including famous graffiti artists such as Stay High 149, Tracy 168, Part, SPE, Dan Plasma, CORTES and TATS CRU.

The tags at Five Points (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

While Five Pointz fame was spreading around the globe, Long Island City was also changing. Due to its proximity to Manhattan, the area started to become a magnet for high-rise residential towers and Wolkoff became increasingly aware of his site’s multi-million dollar real estate value.

(courtesy of FunGi_ (Trading)/Flickr)

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Newtown Creek-A-Thon 2019 Tours Entire Creek (4/28)

Newtown Creek tour courtesy of Newtown Creek Alliance)

Do you have what it takes to trek the entire perimeter of Newtown Creek in one day?

The good folks at Newtown Creek Alliance with support from the Greenpoint Community Environmental Fund are hosting the third annual Newtown Creek-A-Thon, a 12-mile walking tour around North Brooklyn’s historic beleaguered creek on Sunday, April 28th from 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; registration is open.

via NYC Water Flikr

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Congresswoman Maloney Hosting Town Hall in Williamsburg Sunday (2/24)

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney

Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (NY-12) is hosting a town hall on the 2020 census to discuss the impact of the current presidential administration’s policies this Sunday, Feb. 24, at the Williamsburg Hotel (96 Wythe Ave.) at 1 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. With Amazon HQ2 still fresh on the minds of her constituents and the news media, there’s a chance more topics might be brought up at the public meeting.

As the representative of  NY’s 12th Congressional District Maloney reps parts of Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Bushwick, Long Island City (where HQ2 would’ve been constructed), Astoria, the East Village, Midtown East and perhaps most-fittingly, the Upper East Side. The multi-millionaire and UES resident whose lagest donors include real estate developers and BlackRock Inc continues advocating for the failed Amazon bid in NYC.

Appearing on CNBC after the HQ2 deal died, Maloney bemoaned the loss of 25,000 high paying jobs stating, “Along with most of the constituents that I represent, I was terribly disappointed. If Amazon had come to New York, it would have made New York the high-tech capital of the East Coat, cementing permanent good jobs for generations to come. It’s a terrible loss for the city’s economy and jobs for its people.” Amazon also received pushback in the city council hearings on it’s resistance to labor unions and treatment of warehouse workers, which Maloney doesn’t mention in the interview.

The national debate on if cities should compete by bidding on contracts from mega-corporations has been sparked by the failed Amazon project in NYC, and the backroom nature of the deal brokered by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew “Amazon” Cuomo, where they offered upward of $3 billion in tax subsidies, was met with widespread condemnation by the NYC City Council and many Queens residents and activist groups.

“I applaud Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo for having beat out 220 other localities, cities and states to win Amazon in the first place. I would hope that all of us would try to renegotiate, reach out to Amazon, and try to get them to reconsider,” Maloney said. Continue reading

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North Brooklyn Snubbed From Amazon Community Advisory Committee

(Image courtesy of Tony Webster)

Governor Andrew Amazon Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio Bezos announced on Tuesday a community advisory committee “to share information and solicit ongoing community input about Amazon’s planned headquarters project in Long Island City.” North Brooklyn is not represented on the committee despite the effects that the neighboring area will face with housing and infrastructure.

“Amazon’s new headquarters will bring more than 25,000 jobs benefitting all New Yorkers from NYCHA residents to CUNY students,” the Mayor said in a statement. “The Community Advisory Committee will bring together stakeholders of all backgrounds to help shape this important plan.”

After signing non-disclosure agreements with Amazon, brokering a $3 billion tax subsidy in private, along with a promises for eminent domain, the Mayor and Governor have now graced their lowly constituents with “three subcommittees to develop plans for the headquarters and onsite public amenities, investments in neighborhood infrastructure to benefit the surrounding communities, and training and hiring programs to ensure that homegrown talent fills the 25,000 to 40,000 new jobs at the headquarters.”

Greenpoint, which is walking distance to the Anable Basin Amazon HQ2 site, and the greater North Brooklyn community are unrepresented on the committee, according to the committee member list on the press statement:

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NYC Historian Mitch Waxman Discusses Amazon HQ2

“No Amazon LIC” graffiti in Long Island City, Queens (Mitch Waxman)

Mitch Waxman is a lifelong New Yorker and historian who for the past decade has traversed the area near the Long Island City waterfront at Anabel Basin where Amazon’s HQ2 is planned. In a recent post on his site Newtown Pentacle, Waxman revisits some of the photos he snapped of the future Amazon HQ2 campus, and Greenpointers reached out to Waxman to learn his point of view regarding the HQ2 announcement. He offered the disclaimer that he’s neither for or against Amazon’s HQ2 expansion into Queens and that his views are still developing on the deal as details emerge.

The area of Anabel Basin where Amazon’s HQ2 will be partially constructed is on contaminated land where a plastics manufacturer once operated, why would Amazon choose contaminated land to build on?

MW: There’s hundreds of state Superfund sites in Western Queens, and the people who have been moving into North Brooklyn and Western Queens over the last 20 years are breaking the old pattern. It used to be when you bought a house, you intended to be buried in your backyard, whereas the current population has very little intention of making New York their final stop. This is one stop on the trip of their lives and eventually, they’re going to settle elsewhere.

When you’re at Amazon’s new campus you’re down the block from the largest power plant in New York City that’s causing childhood asthma rates of historic levels in Ravenswood, Astoria and Queensbridge Houses. You’re on what abuts a brownfield, and a future Superfund site at Anabel Basin.

Future Superfund Site Anabel Basin has the same black mayonnaise in it that Newtown Creek does, the same combined sewer outfall problem that Newtown Creek does, it has all the good stuff that we would talk about in the area around the Pulaski Bridge. So why on earth would you choose this particular location to put Californians and Seattle people who are famously environmentally conscious, why would you put them there? Could it be that you’re going to be visible from the offices of the United Nations? Could it have anything to do with that Manhattan is the center of global investment and that putting yourself there means that you’re going to be a lot sexier to Goldman Sachs and everyone else who will cut you more preferential rates because you know them from drinking with them in a hotel?

The answer is that they came here for Wall Street and they came here to start bolstering their international presence and to start getting ahead of some of the regulatory environment that’s developing internationally around companies like Amazon.

Why is Mayor Bill de Blasio voicing a strong pro-Amazon stance given his progressive reputation?

MW: The “tale of two cities” for me is the tale of Manhattan and Long Island City. Long Island City is where he gets to do what he wants to do. Overbuilt, overdeveloped, not enough infrastructure.

He wants to borrow $18- $20 Billion from the city’s coffers for Sunnyside Yard deck. What they’ll do then is they will give the land away for a dollar an acre to the developers who paid them off to do the project, and the city taxpayers will pay the mortgage on $18 – $20 billion over a 25 year period hamstringing us from doing anything else we need to do.

Conventionally speaking, NYCHA needs $53 billion to bring its housing back up to snuff and to bring the roughly 1/10th of all available apartments that have been out since Hurricane Sandy back into service. If he was the man of the people that’s the direction he would go in.

De Blasio likes to blame all the problems of NYCHA on Mayor Bloomberg. Who was the public advocate during Bloomberg’s last two terms? Who was in the City Council during the last term of Giuliani and the first term of Bloomberg?

Why would Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo agree on something like the Amazon HQ2 deal after disagreeing on nearly everything else?

MW: Both of their political machines are getting fed by the deal. At the top of the food chain, there are people who are Democrats; like the Yankees, they’re just wearing hats.

Amongst the many, many, many things that I disagree with Donald Trump about, the firing of Preet Bharara just as he was drawing in on both the Mayor and the Governor, is something the Mayor and the Governor should fall down and kiss Trump’s feet for. If Preet had continued on with his investigation, I’m certain that the headlines we would be seeing every day would be simultaneous trials for the Governor and the Mayor.

There’s a lot to say about corruption in our city and state always. We have a one-party system. We have different factions of a single political party, and what I am not gonna to do to you as a fellow elected Democrat is put you on trial because you would do the same to me, and that affects the larger party.

Living in a Republic that ostensibly operates as a Democracy, there was no conversation, there was no argument. You had two people who are pro-development, neo-liberal capitalist-oriented Democrats, talking to a neo-liberal corporatist, and deciding for the community in the manner of Nelson Rockefeller, in the manner of Robert Moses, in the manner of Austin Tobin deciding for a community exactly what it is that they needed. And you know what? If you don’t like it you can get out.

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Amazon Protest Gains Steam on Cyber Monday

A protest entitled, Protect Queens #NoAmazonNYC, has received a large response with over 500 people RSVPing and thousands ‘interested’ in the action hosted by the Democratic Socialists of America, the political organization that counts North Greenpoint’s incoming representative, New York Senator Julia Salazar as a member. Community members, activists and politicians are concerned with the sizable billion-dollar-plus state subsidy that a monopolistic corporation owned by the wealthiest man in the world will receive. The protest starts at 5 p.m. tonight at Court Square Park in Long Island City.

The event description reads:

“The heartbeat of Queens is the working class and immigrants, not billionaires. At a time when our city is facing a crisis of affordability, New York is looking to pay Amazon, the richest corporation in the world, billions of dollars to gentrify Queens. This is outrageous. Rather than creating good jobs for the community this deal will displace existing residents. We do not need nor want Amazon in our barrio.

– We need affordable housing, not further gentrification
– We need protections for immigrants, not a company that profits off of work with ICE
– We need more funding for transit, not billions in corporate subsidies
– We need good jobs, not a company that exploits workers

Our communities need real investment, not displacement. It’s time for New York to #NoAmazonNYC.”

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Here Comes Amazon HQ2-Inspired Real Estate Prospectors

 

Dutch Kills, connected to the Newtown Creek Superfund site is the next “It Zone” (MTA)

Amazon’s plan to build half of its HQ2 at Anabel Basin in Long Island City,  just a brisk walk from Greenpoint over the Pulaski Bridge, is proving to be a Rorschch test. The homeownership rate in Brooklyn is around 30 percent, leaving the majority of residents in the area feeling the stress of a potential for increased rent, similar to Seatle where rent has risen 39.8 percent over the past fives years.

On the other hand, real estate speculators are salivating at the HQ2 news and see an opportunity for a quick return on investment; online searches for LIC real estate have jumped 300 percent since the HQ2 announcement less than a week ago.

To “help capitalize on local growth,” NYC-based Compound Asset Management, Inc. has launched an “NYC HQ2 Fund” offering an investment opportunity with a “diversified portfolio of properties in neighborhoods such as Sunnyside, Woodside, Astoria, Greenpoint, Maspeth, and Long Island City itself.”

Yes, the speculators are coming (in even greater numbers) and are setting their fiesty eyes on the few neighborhoods with remaining charm in NYC. The highest accolades, according to Compound, are reserved for Dutch Kills, the next “It Zone,” a small waterway where raw sewage often overflows connected to the Newtown Creek Superfund. Compound cites in the fact that four luxury buildings are going up at Dutch Kills already. Continue reading

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Amazon HQ2 Is Coming to Long Island City

Amazon’s HQ 2 is coming to LIC.

After over 200 U.S. city governments vetted the world’s richest man, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, to plop his tech goliath’s HQ2 in their territory, Bezos picks Long Island City, Queens and Crystal City, Virginia as the two “winners.”

His Excellency, Andrew ‘Amazon’ Cuomo is offering state subsidies to the tune of $1.5 billion to gain what is promised to be 25,000 new jobs paying $150,000 per year on average.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, now in his lame duck era, has been cheerleading the Amazon search since last year, coming full circle from his days as NYC public advocate when he led the effort to keep Wal-Mart’s attempted NYC expansion at bay. Continue reading

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Amazon Eyes Long Island City For HQ2

LIC waterfront with new development (courtesy of Joe Mabel)

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been intensely lobbying Amazon to locate its HQ2 in Long Island City. Gov. Cuomo jokingly offered to rename Newtown Creek ‘Amazon Creek’ on the condition that the corporate giant agreed to choose LIC. He even humorously offered to change his name to ‘Amazon Cuomo’ to entice the corporate giant to choose Long Island City.

It seems that Cuomo’s intense lobbying may have borne fruit, according to a Monday report in the New York Times. The Times reports that Amazon has decided not to create one mega headquarters, but to divide the new headquarters in two. One of those locations, according to the article is in LIC. The other location Amazon has chosen is Crystal City, Virginia, in the greater Washington D.C. Area. The Times, however, did strike a cautionary note, though, stating that the company has made no final decision. Continue reading

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Will Newtown Creek Be Renamed To Amazon Creek?

Boat enjoying Newton Creek on a lovely day.
A non-Amazon-owned boat on Newtown Creek

Two weeks ago at their annual fundraiser, the North Brooklyn Parks Alliance (formerly Open Space Alliance) announced that Amazon Fashion donated $100,000 to the organization focused on bringing more recreational greenspace to the neighborhood.

Now, in a bid to lure Amazon HQ2 to the industrial shores of the East River, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has offered to rename Newtown Creek to Amazon Creek, and is throwing in hundreds of millions of dollars in state subsidies to sweeten the deal, the New York Daily News reports. Continue reading

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