The existing building has been completely demolished at 11-51 47th Avenue on the southern tip of Long Island City, clearing the way for the 11-story condominium tower that will house 56 units and rise 125 feet.
The project is being jointly developed by Charney Construction & Development and Ascent Development, both of which are based in Long Island City. Charney’s Sam Charney was interviewed by YIMBY earlier in April, when he spoke in detail about the new project and where it fits in the grand scheme of the Long Island City renaissance.
The architectural concept was conceived by Fogarty Finger, the firm that is also responsible for 41-07 Crescent Street, which is wrapping up construction north of Queens Plaza on the other end of LIC. The design appears deceptively simple and channels the neighborhood’s loft aesthetic in a polished, contemporary manner. A square grid of concrete bands follows the existing street wall and frames large casement windows, which cover the entire height of the tall floors.
The penthouse features extra high ceilings and is set back from the building’s street wall, allowing for large terraces facing Jackson Avenue. The renderings indicate similar glass balustrades along the perimeter of the roof, suggesting a rooftop deck. If such an amenity is indeed included within the project, it would open towards sweeping vistas in all directions, including the Manhattan skyline to the west.
The most pleasant feature of the design occurs where the concrete grid gently curves at the corners that face the adjacent intersection. The building was intentionally designed to complement the MoMA PS1 building, which sits almost directly catty corner.
The building’s size and bulk is in line with a cluster of similarly scaled residential projects that stand further southwest on Jackson Avenue, extending a mid-rise street wall that was nonexistent only a few years ago. Together with the two ODA projects at 22-22 and 22-12 Jackson Avenue, as well as the massive complex at the site of 5Pointz, the new project will become another bridging element that connects the southern portion of LIC to the rapidly developing district around Court Square four blocks up Jackson Avenue to the northeast.
The sites that surround the intersection where 11-51 47th Avenue sits are representative of the grungy, old Long Island City periphery where unremarkable commercial/industrial properties and parking lots proliferate. The new project replaces one such property, a two-story cab garage and office with a brick, somewhat post-Modernist facade.
The structure was not the worst looking among its neighbors, but the replacement is a major improvement. The previously existing corrugated metal fence is still there, though it is adorned with construction signs and a project board.
Despite the commercial and industrial presence, the neighborhood offerings are by no means lacking. An existing, traditional residential neighborhood begins at the western half of the block. Two blocks east lies Vernon Boulevard, a vibrant stretch of small scale dining and retail establishments, and two blocks further is the Gantry Plaza State Park, which opens to breathtaking vistas of Midtown Manhattan and Roosevelt Island across the East River.
Three short blocks north of the new building sits John F. Murray Playground, a full block park space. A row of restaurants, services, and grocery stores stretches to the south along Jackson Avenue. The MoMA PS1 is a local landmark, and, along with the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, is among the two most important museums in all of western Queens. Though the Aerosol Art Center at 5Pointz is demolished, its legacy lingers in the public psyche and the movement that it inspired. The proposed graffiti wall at the future building complex seeks to keep this identity alive.
11-51 47th Avenue boasts excellent transit access. The project sits directly on top of the 21 Street-Van Alst Station of the G train, which puts it a station away from Greenpoint in Brooklyn and one more from Williamsburg further down the line. The Hunters Point Avenue 7 train station is two blocks south, and Court Square-23rd Street on the E and M trains is five short blocks north, both of which put Manhattan within a five-minute ride. The curb on 21st Street hosts a stop for the Q67 and B32 buses.
The traffic above ground is even more congested than the train tracks below. The building faces the busy triple intersection of 47th Avenue, 21st Street, and Jackson Avenue, connecting the junction of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, the Brooklyn-bound Pulaski Bridge, and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel to the south, with the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge/Queens Boulevard/Northern Boulevard node at Dutch Kills Green at the north end of Jackson Avenue. Traffic congestion is a fact of local daily life, though it also means that the residents lucky enough to secure one of the 23 parking spots within the complex will have convenient car access to just about anywhere in the city.
The focal point of the local streetscape is the gas station that sits at the small triangular lot across 21st Street, directly across from the historic MoMA PS1 building. We strongly hope that the gas station will be redeveloped into a park. Sitting right next to the 21st Street-Van Alst station, this new Van Alst Square would make for one of the great public spaces of Long Island City. It would effectively join the booming Court Square district to the north with the new residential district to the south, the old low-rise neighborhood to the west, and the eventual Sunnyside Railyards development to the east. The Museum makes for a perfect civic centerpiece, while upcoming ground floor retail at 11-51 47th Avenue further activates the corner.
The abundant underused properties on all sides around the square would be perfect candidates for upzoning via inclusion into the proposed rezoning district that sits directly to the north.
The transit capacity at 21st St-Van Alst station may be further increased by opening the abandoned entrance and platform space, and the abundant train options in the vicinity, as described above, make the area an even better candidate for higher density. The increased desirability of the area, an added public amenity, and extended development potential would make a buyout of the gas station worth it for the city, especially if the city sells its air rights to an adjacent development to generate the necessary funds.
If this does not happen, the next best option would be a purchase by a developer that would convert it into a park while transferring the air rights to assemble a larger building across the street. The same tactic was used in Lower Manhattan for the creation of Zuccotti Park from One Liberty Plaza.
However it may be done, this opportunity for a brand new Van Alst Square is too good to pass up.