New York PostOctober 25, 2012Think of it as a miniature Midtown Manhattan. In Court Square, the Long Island City neighborhood that encircles the Citibank tower in Queens, the buildings are tall and glassy. The streets are wide and swarming with cars, the subways abundant and the business district bustling.
And that’s just the beginning.
The next few years will see thousands of new residential units, most of them rentals, at discounts to Manhattan. And it all will be one stop away from Midtown on the M or the E — an easier commute than from most of Manhattan.
“Renters are transportation-hungry, and the transportation in Long Island City is unparalleled,” says Justin Elghanayan, president of Rockrose Development.
He is so convinced of the area’s potential demand for rentals that three years ago he scrapped plans for an office tower at 43-25 Hunter St. and reconceived the project as 1,000 rental units. This is just one of the investments his firm has in the Court Square area.
Rockrose’s grand plans include 709 rentals at the 42-story Linc LIC at 43-10 Crescent St., which is already topped out and will start leasing in spring. A 14,000-square-foot supermarket in the base of the building could open a few months after. Across the street is Rockrose’s aforementioned 1,000-rental project, which will include one or two buildings. And to come is a lower-rise, 100-unit building that could be rentals or condos.
On Purves Street, the Vista’s 48 condo units are selling fast. “We released eight units to test out the market and sold them all in the first 25 minutes,” says Eric Benaim, president and CEO of Modern Spaces, which is marketing the project.
The Criterion Group has plans for two 100-plus-unit rental buildings also on Purves. And Ekstein Development has three buildings in the works: 98 rentals (80 percent market rate, 20 percent affordable) in partnership with L+M at 26-14 Jackson Ave.; 59 rentals (also 80/20) at 46-09 11th St.; and 106 rentals at 44th Drive and 11th Street.
“We love Long Island City,” says Erik Ekstein, president of Ekstein Development. “We’ve seen the growth of the rental rates continue to climb. Vacancy is close to zero.”
Brokers and developers cite singles and young professionals from Manhattan and from deeper in Queens as the demographic in Court Square. The area has a different feel from the Long Island City waterfront, where sky-high residential buildings, park space and a lack of through-traffic calls to mind Battery Park City.
“The waterfront has attracted a lot of families. We’re more for singles or shares or maybe newlyweds,” Ekstein says.
“I considered living by the water, but transportation was huge [for me] — there are seven subway lines within two blocks of my apartment,” says Elka Gruenberg, who moved into 42-51 Hunter St., a 24-unit condo building two blocks from the Court Square station.
“And something about this area felt more authentically New York — all the small businesses.”
As evidence she points to LIC Market, a buzzworthy restaurant and wine bar; Sage General Store, which serves home-style cooking; and
Dutch Kills, a cocktail joint from mixology maven Sasha Petraske.
Elghanayan says that one of Rockrose’s goals is to preserve and even foster that authentic neighborhood feel.
Its 1,000-unit project will have 30,000 square feet of retail divided into small spaces for boutiques. It’s saving an auto-body shop, which will be leased to M Wells, a Long Island City dining hot spot that was priced out of its original location last year. (M Wells now has an outpost at MoMA PS1.) And before its smaller project comes to fruition, Rockrose plans on taking a page out of Douglaston
Development’s book and inviting food trucks to park in the lot a la Smorgasburg in Williamsburg.
“It’s an area that is developing. It will eventually be just like Downtown Brooklyn,” says David Maundrell, president of Aptsandlofts.com, which is leasing 142 units at 27 on 27th at 27-03 42nd Road.
There, studios start at $1,900 a month, one-bedrooms at $2,400 and two-bedrooms at $3,100. Prices are net effective.
At Linc LIC, studios and one-bedrooms are priced the same as at 27 on 27th, with two-bedrooms starting at $3,350.
Not cheap but par for the neighborhood and, according to Elghanayan, 20 to 25 percent off Manhattan prices.
Condos too offer a discount on Manhattan prices.
“I had my heart set on Gramercy, Union Square, anything below 23rd Street,” says Nicole Mynarski. “I looked for over a year. Everything was in the high $600,000s to $700,000s and needed a lot of work. Add in taxes and maintenance, and it was ridiculous.”
In One Murray Park, a 45-unit new condo building at 11-25 45th Ave., Mynarski found a 720-square-foot one-bedroom with an 850-square-foot terrace for $550,000.
“You’d never find the same thing for under a million in Manhattan,” she says.