41-21 28th Street has risen to its third level, on its way to its final height of 185 feet. The project, developed by All Year Management, will house 166 residential units spread across 126,718 square feet.
A handful of pre-war office buildings, rising between six and twelve stories, occupy three blocks north of Queens Plaza, between 41st Avenue to the east and 27th Street to the south. Until 1990, this cluster was the closest thing Queens had to a high-rise commercial downtown. 41-21 28th Street sits across the street from, and next to, two such properties, and many of its low-rise neighbors date within the same period.
The south end of the block is one of the most architecturally impressive spaces in Long Island City. The nine-story building at 28-11 Queens Plaza North would be average by Manhattan standards, yet its stone base and an ornate cornice make it one of the best structures in the neighborhood. Across the street stands the sprawling, six-story office building at 27-01 Queens Plaza North. Its monumental, arched window arcades with stone, brick, and metal detailing march across the entire length of the block. The new building has a lot to live up to.
The architect, Karl Fischer, crafted a design that reflects its historic context without being overly historicist. The basic form consists of a slab that stands nine-stories-tall at its north half and 16 at the tower portion to the south. The flat grid of the brick façade is broken only by two setbacks at the tops of their respective halves.
Many new residential buildings in Long Island City, from 42-14 Crescent Street to 41-07 Crescent to Factory House mix traditional and contemporary paradigms to various degrees, and Karl Fischer’s building belongs to the same genre. The red brick pays homage to its neighbors. The large, square casement windows are not only a reflection of a real estate market where loft-living is in high demand, but are also a tribute to the neighborhood’s industrial past.
Similar casement windows lined the top floor of the 30,000 square foot, two-story industrial property that occupied the site until last year. The building must have been appealing decades ago, with large windows lining both floors of the brick façade, which was trimmed with limestone. At the time of demolition, the building was as an eyesore. The windows on the lower floor were completely bricked up, replaced with freight entrances and metal doors. The brick was covered in garish, off-white paint while the stone cornice was painted black.
An even less notable, single-story industrial structure occupied the northern portion of the site.
The project is being built in phases. Above ground construction has reached the third floor on the north end of the site, forming the basis for the entirety of the lower portion of the building and a small part of the taller half. The majority of the tower portion, however, is not even a pit in the ground, as excavation is only beginning.
The new building follows the street wall, yet it does not stand adjacent to its northern neighbor. A narrow, gated alleyway allows for lot-facing windows on the north façade, which are bound to be all but blocked out when a tall building inevitably rises to the north. It is unclear whether the south end of the site will exhibit a similar condition.
The traditionally inspired design appears to loosely follow the classic separation into the “base-column-crown” components. A white stone façade runs along the entire length of the ground floor. Site renderings show a decorated crown, though the renderings released online show a plain, flat top capped in the same manner as the setbacks on the eighth, ninth, and 13th floor.
All three setbacks accommodate terraces that face west, toward sweeping views of the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge and the Manhattan skyline beyond. Though thirteen mid-rise projects are currently underway on the eight-block-long stretch along Queens Plaza North and 41st Avenue, the tower’s 16 stories cement its position as the third tallest of the lot, and the tallest competitor – LIC Marriott and Residences – sits one block east and will have no effect on Manhattan vistas. Only the 21-story-tall QLIC a few blocks away, as well as several larger towers south of Queens Plaza, partially obstruct westbound panoramas from the upper floors.
41-21 will play a delicate balancing act in respect to neighborhood-appropriate massing. The blocks to the north, across 41st Avenue, are a traditional low-rise patchwork of rowhomes, single family homes, and churches, mostly dating to the first half of the 20th century and earlier. The Newcomers High School that sits on 41st Avenue is a traditional New York schoolhouse structure of red brick and white stone accents. Its look and height, rising about 60 feet, makes for a perfect transition between the residential area and the mid-rise commercial district across the avenue.
The south end of the block is capped off by the massive elevated structure at Queens Plaza, which handles the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge approaches as well as the N, Q, and 7 trains. Large towers are rising on the south side of the plaza. The tallest of the group is the 58-story 28 on 28th, which will be only 27 feet shorter than One Court Square, Queens’ tallest and most famous skyscraper.
41-21 will serve as a “stepping stone” between the two drastically different neighborhood scales. Its northern half will be nine-stories-tall, matching the existing surrounding scale and rising only slightly higher than the high school at the end of the block. It also helps that the red brick of the new building matches the facades of both the school and the residential and commercial buildings across the street. The southern portion will be more than twice as tall, with its sixteen stories standing in a similar height range as its slightly taller neighbors to the east and west.
It will also serve as a “foothill” for the rising skyline plateau to the south, an opening act to a crescendo of height.
While the developers chose to provide 55 parking spaces within the project, no parking minimums are required in the zoning district where it stands, and for all the right reasons. Public transit options on the block are some of the best in the city, with the E, M, R, N, Q, 7, and F trains all lying within a 2,000 foot radius. The Dutch Kills Green park one block east and Queens Plaza to the south boost local pedestrian offerings. The building sits directly adjacent to a bike lane, and a Citi Bike station is located about a block away at Queens Plaza. The block’s appeal will be further enhanced with proposed tree plantings along the building’s façade.
Despite the loft aesthetic channeled by Karl Fischer’s design, the neighborhood is rapidly shedding its industrial past. While a large number of office buildings still stand on the surrounding blocks, an influx of apartments and hotel rooms is morphing the area into a vibrant, round-the-clock community. The 675 square foot retail space on the ground floor is small, but it will bring much needed pedestrian activity to the presently quiet block. Two shoddy commercial properties on the northern end of the block are biding their time until eventual redevelopment, while a corner lot across the street is cleared and fenced off, promising the area’s continuing transformation into a truly mixed-use urban enclave.