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WOLLMAN: We'd like to welcome you to the closing session of the 2001 City Roundtable. The purpose of the roundtable among those of you who have not been here among the series of institute seminars and conferences during the year is to focus on one of the boroughs of the city and the surrounding key communities that really embrace New York and function almost like quasi boroughs. Places like Jersey City which not next year, but the year after will be the subject of the City Roundtable in this cycle of events we try to over three mornings try to really pull out the key development and real estate issues that face the borough as part of the city.
Day one, we talked a lot about the commercial and institutional expansion of Queens. On the west side of Queens facing midtown it is a very timely thing as I think some of you know that the group of thirty-five's report was issued this week in regard to their visions of the resources for the expansion of commercial space especially in the city and Long Island City were certainly one of the areas highlighted in the report. Some of the issues we talked about on day one were called out again in that report. Last week we talked about the issues of reinvesting in existing neighborhoods. The strengths of Flushing, the strengths of Jamaica and South Jamaica and today we take on the third of the question regarding Queens' future within the city as a whole which is the prospect that Queens offers for building new large scale housing with a special concentration on the projects in (inaudible) and you will know much more about that by the time the morning ends.
There is also a sense of summary to today looking at not just the issues of large-scale housing or reinvesting in existing neighborhoods or the issues of commercial and institutional expansion but the spirits, the feeling of Queens as a host to great waves of immigration that have embraced New York in the past decade at a sense of how it brings itself back into its role within the city in a new century and new era. I would like again on behalf of the Borough President's Office and we all really feel very much the loss of Claire Shulman and her not only in a personal basis, but in terms of this conference which she worked so hard with Peter Magnani to put together, her absence over the past couple of weeks. I know our thoughts are all with her.
I would like to introduce on behalf of Claire also on behalf of herself as the Deputy Borough President and on behalf of the Office of the Borough President, Peter Magnani. Since June of 1986 Peter Magnani has been Deputy Borough President of Queens where among other duties he is responsible for the capital budget, land use issues, parks, infrastructure, economic development and strategic planning. He also represents the Borough President on the Queens West Development Corporation Board of Directors. Prior to assuming his post as Deputy Borough President he served as Director of the Queens Office of the New York City Department of Planning. He has also served in a similar capacity of the Bronx Office of the Department of Planning. Please welcome Peter Magnani.
PETER MAGNANI: Thank you very much, Henry. First of all, I would like to thank everybody for their concern for Borough President Claire Shulman. Started coming back into the office this week and she is slowly working her way back. Thank you. Welcome to the third section of the Peter Magnani Real Estate Institute. I'm kidding. You are probably sick of hearing from me, right? The Newman Real Estate Institute of Baruch College has done an excellent job in organizing this event and on behalf of Borough President Claire Shulman I wish to thank Henry Wollman the Director of the Institute and his staff for all their work in putting this program together. The presentations we have heard over the last few week and the ones we'll hear today have made an excellent impression on many people about the potential of Queens County. In fact, last week I was on the west side visiting my son on West 70th Street and I was stopped in the street by an attendee whom I didn't know who had wanted to learn more about Queens. He had attended the previous session. I am told by our Economic Development Office that we have been getting more requests for information than ever before. As someone who has devoted my professional career to improving New York City I am happy to know there is a resurgence of urban life and culture. Looking back at the history of the city we can only be amazed by the visions that some of our very intelligent planners had for the future.
For example, I always enjoy looking at photographs of New York if the past and I always enjoy viewing a 1920's era aerial photographer of the number 7 line. Sure some of you have seen it. There it is; an elevated train running through farms and field. I think the one I saw was now Sunnyside. Classic example of build it and they shall come philosophy. Another example is the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. I am sure you have read the Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. He mentions Flushing Meadow Park and these (inaudible) have been transformed into Arthur Ashe Stadium and a variety of recreational and cultural centers. It was that vision that made our city and our borough pretty.
But in addition to visions we have to be vigil. So many forces sometimes with the best intentions can destroy the greatest possibilities. Look at our waterfronts, for instance. For almost a century we forgot about this vital resource. After the days of shipping past we turned our back on the very essence of what gave our city its reason for being. We, speaking in the collective past, did not recognize its importance. Only now are we rediscovering this vital asset. What I would like to import to you is the notion that we, planners, builders, teachers and business people are really only caretakers of the city. We can be good caretakers by reacting to problems as they come along or we can be great caretakers by being proactive and anticipating needs before they before they become significant problems. We need vision and we need the vigil.
This is a challenge before us. This conference has put us on the path to become great caretakers. Again, I thank you for your patience. I would like to thank my staff, some of whom are here today. Seth Fornstein, who is a great speechwriter; makes me look good up here. Benita (inaudible), Mark Scott, (inaudible) and Bo McKinley. Thank you very much.
WOLLMAN: It is nice to be able to be a little more informal I think today. I have to capture a little bit of the spirit of what we have achieved and where we hope to go with much of the material that has been assembled for the craft of these three mornings. There will be an issue of Properties that will summarize all the issues and all the presentations that have been made of these past few mornings. They will be the full transcript available in probably six weeks on the Institute's website so that I know there are careful notetakers among you, but that material will also be available in both a somewhat abbreviated format in Properties, the Institute's journal, as well as in a full format on the Institute's website.
Former United States Representative, the Reverend Floyd H. Flake is the senior pastor of the twelve thousand member Allen A.M.E. African Methodist Episcopal Church in Jamaica Queens and President of Edison Charter Schools. During its 25 year past Allen has become one of the nations foremost Christian churches and non profit corporations. The church's annual operating budget of 29 million dollars expansive commercial and residential development, five hundred student private schools founded by Floyd and his wife Elaine and various commercial and social service enterprises placed in among the nations most productive religious and urban development institutions. The eleven corporations, church administrative offices, school and ministries comprise an eight hundred and twenty-five person work force making it one of the Borough of Queens' three largest private sector employees. From 1986 to 1987 Floyd served as a representative in the United States Congress and established a reputation for bipartisan innovative legislative initiative to revitalize urban commercial and residential communities. Floyd concentrated on gartering federal resources and projects to his community. He won two regional facilities; a Federal Drug Administration and a Federal Aviation Administration, which generates more than two thousand jobs while also upgrading the stability and aesthetics of the district. He was able to get the Clinton Administration to fund the nation's first one stop small business capital center in Jamaica which is a model for such additional centers in the various federal empowering zones.
Floyd is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Social and Economic Policy. A columnist for the New York Post, a member of the Fanny Mae Foundation Board of Directors and an adjunct professor on the Advisory Board of the Brooklyn Institute's Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy. Also a board member of the Export Import Bank, the initiative for a competitive city, the New York City investment fund, City Capital Corporation and Edison Schools. Please join me in welcoming Floyd Flake.
REVEREND FLOYD H. FLAKE. Thank you very much, Henry for the introduction and for the opportunity to come and share this morning. Certainly there is no greater topic for me than an interest in the further development of Queens and I am honored that you would not only invite me but cooperate with my schedule as you know my wife and I have an engagement this morning at 9:00 and as she does in many instances she goes and waits until I arrive so we won't be too long and hopefully we'll do this speech and then give you some opportunity for questions. I am going to ask as we begin because I've had a great relationship over the last 25 years with Claire Shulman, if we might take just a few seconds to offer a silent prayer if you will. Thank you.
Let me begin by thanking Henry for the work that the Institute has done with my church in terms of doing the analysis of what we might be able to do in terms of furthering our own economic development. We could not have done as good a study without you and we certainly appreciate it and I think the people at Fanny Mae are grateful we were able to find such a great partner to work with us. And to the Borough President's Office, later and Peter, that over these years have been so responsive, so supportive of all our projects we are grateful to see you. (inaudible) who, my colleague, a former colleague or whatever way you put it is happy to see you out this morning as well as others from rock away and from other places who come to share in this moment.
It was years ago I was Dean of Students at Boston University. I was asked a question by a bishop if I would be willing to come to Jamaica Queens New York and take the responsibility of the church that they had a membership numbering about twelve hundred. I talked to my wife about it and we decided that of all the places we might locate, one of the places we did not want to live was New York. Interestingly enough we never know where we might go or where our opportunities are because had we not accepted the responsibility of coming to Queens and pastoring at Allen A.M.E. Church I doubt seriously I would have been able to participate in a process of helping to change lives as I think the Lord has meant me to do. As a matter of fact my intentions of been by this time in my life to be a college president and since I couldn't do that I take the position of President of Edison schools and that's about as close as I am going to get, I suspect.
One of the things we have discovered as we have raised our four children here, looked at the demographic and the work that not only we have done but many others in Queens it has become quite a different community that is evidenced through the analysis of the recent census data that clearly indicates that a paradigm-ship has taken place. Queens has become one of the most attractive of all the boroughs to live in if not the most attractive in the city because I believe it offers us possibilities that most other boroughs just do not have available to them. As a preacher, one of the things I do is analysis of a particular passage of scripture, Genesis the second chapter, where it says God created Adam and Eve and then put them in the garden which is called Paradise and gave them the responsibility to keep it. My suspect is all of us here this morning understand that if we have an awesome responsibility to (inaudible) as we try to dress and keep what we have been given. What we have been given is not only a great dollar in terms of what it has accomplished in the past, but also a great borough because of what it can accomplish in the future. No other borough is as well situated. Two airports. One that has began to (inaudible) I don't know it seems in large measure because of the level of development brought about by the expansion of the rail link into the Jamaica station and ultimately into Manhattan that gives access to those persons who live and work in Queens so they might have transportation. Not only to the airport, but into the city in more rapid form that takes them out of the crowded congestion of the Van Wyck Expressway and the Grand Central and puts them into a position where they will (inaudible) to travel from Midtown New York into the airport in a matter of minutes. This is a reality that is of great necessity. It can not (inaudible) merely from the parochial perspective of what it might mean to the particular community of which it is applied, but for its value as it relates to the future of Queens in general.
I got to believe that when we look at the demographics when we look at the shift that has taken place in terms of population coming into Queens we have the opportunity to become the most diverse borough in the city. Through that diversity the ability to demonstrate to the rest of this nation how a people can live together regardless of what their color, regardless of their race, their creed, their class or even their gender. I believe as we look to that it becomes very clear that we must take full advantage of the opportunities available and the barren land and ground that has not yet been developed. The population is growing. There is no need for us to react. But rather we ought to develop proactive stances that allow us to know there is capability for assimilating these populations into the borough by virtue of what is available to us. Especially is that true when one looks at Rockaway. I realize we often times have had projects available or talked about projects or the development of Rockaway and somehow they seem to get lost. We are at a point now where we can no longer start and stop. It is time to really start serious initiatives in Rockaway and make the commitment that these projects we pronounce we will make real, become reality for the people who not only live there but the people who have the possibility of living there. Why is it so valuable? Why is it such a valuable part of the future of this borough.
First of all, I would like to say when I am doing my workshops with clergy and talk about the undeveloped communities of this nation, urban communities, one of the things I always tell is that one thing they ought to appreciate is land. Land appreciates simply because God is not going to make anymore and so when you look at all the valuable land available in Rockaway it is unlike any that you will find anywhere in the City of New York. Natural resources are there. The beach is there. Those things which have historically represented and attract for people and other parts of this nation has brought them to a place like Rockaway is the kind of invitation I think speaks well of what the future of what Rockaway can be. It is important and imperative then if we begin to develop the quality of housing that gives opportunity for those persons who are part of the landscape of this city. Many of them working on Wall Street and other places in the city will find themselves looking for the ideal location for themselves and their family. The enjoyment of developing Rockaway would mean these persons would not have to develop a means by which they would have a winter home and summer home because Rockaway gives them the best option for being able to have both as they live close to the waterfront. I tend to think the attractiveness of it in spite of its location and I say in spite of its league because in order to make it happen there must be an investment in infrastructure that clearly makes it possible for people to know they will not be sitting on the train over the waterway trying to find their way into their jobs, but rather every means of transportation available ought to be explored. It is the only way I think we can really develop Rockaway. That means whether it is a ferry or whether it is further expansion of the rail links into other parts of Rockaway, whatever necessities there are I believe that go those necessities are invested in, ultimately the return will be so great that whatever the initial investments have been they'll have been well worth it.
We can no longer sit and talk about Rockaway as a place where 30, 40 years ago the city put a number of housing projects there. We know that happened. We know they are there. We last hope some of the other programs there will be improved. We know the quality of life has changed significantly under the leadership of this city over the last several years. Reality is now to build a (inaudible). Building a (inaudible) means that even as we may further investments in the infrastructure that is underdeveloped, the barren land that can become the productive place of developing housing. We also continue to make investments to make sure those public housing centers are places people will want to live.
More importantly not only persons living in public housing living better but also dealing with the reality that many of the persons who live there have now come to a place where they got enough resources that they are buying their own homes. If they are paying for a property owned by the federal government as opposed to their own property they are really not accumulating the kinds of equity and the kinds of assets that allow them to ultimately become persons who are stable persons who are able to raise families and children in a way that does not put them from one center to another but brings them to a place where they can live in an environment where all the services that are necessary for their growth and development are available to them. It also means we must make an investment in schools. Any community that is developed where there is not an environment in the building of better schools is a community that regardless of how much is invested does not lend itself to future growth.
One of the things I've taken pleasure in over the years as a developer who builds some homes through the church corporations is trying to find that community in New York where a property can be listed with the school system. There are very few of them. I tend to believe if we are serious about trying to rebuild New York City we must also we build the infrastructure of our schools in such ways that we can list the property in a location with the school district knowing that school district has the quality and the kinds of values that assure that every family that moves in to that community knows their child is going to get the best possible education. Not just an education that makes them competitive in this city but that will give them a world class education that makes them competitive throughout the world. We can no longer accept standards that are low. We can no longer expect expectations that are not high. We can no longer talk about rebuilding a city or borough and at the same time not address this critical problem because if there is one thing in my opinion that drives people out of communities like Queens it is the fact that they are not able to get the best education for their children.
My reality is, it comes from what I have been able to see happen through homes that we develop. Many of the persons who move into what is essentially a middle class community suddenly discover they come into a place where they have to make investment in private education in order to get their children the best possible education they can. Suddenly find themselves moving but a few miles into Nassau County and the other surrounding counties so they can address this critical problem. As a member of the Fanny Mae Foundation Board what we discovered throughout this nation those people who left the cities in the first place a white light followed by middle class African Americans into the suburbs, ultimately moved to the outer suburbs what we call the urban small communities. Now those persons are moving back into the cities driving many of the problem that are part of the urban communities right into the suburbs. Our reality is that many of those people moved though, simply because they could not get their child the best education possible. They come back now because they are empty nesters. Our focus then must be not only to meet their needs but to meet this new emerging population of young people that are coming out of great institutes and getting degrees in finance, law, working in this city. We must create for them an environment where they can live and live with the knowledge they can get their child educated there.
Furthermore, we must address the problem and question of how we might be able to better provide for the needs of those who are the civil servants of the city. There are many persons whom I believe are teachers, police, fire persons who I believe would live in the city if they had access to good affordable housing. When you say affordable housing people think you are talking about subsidized. I am talking about people who can pay the mortgage. People who can live in the city. People who ought to. I believe the city's a better place. When those who are in civil service are able to live in the city and make their contributions not only by virtue of their work but also by virtue of the places where they live and in those places making them safer, making them places where young people can have direct access to teachers who represent role models for them as they try to improve the quality of life for everybody.
Ultimately whether we put investment in Rockaway or Long Island City, I believe the future of Queens is pretty much assured; represents for us a great hope. I think those who have made investments in Queens have come to the realization that if you invest in here more than 25 years ago as I did you have seen a great appreciation of your property value and that's what it is all about. Every Sunday when I make my (inaudible) I challenge my people to give ten percent to the house of the Lord and they do that. They give about 9.7 million dollars a year in offerings which we invest a great deal of in the community but also I encourage them to give ten percent to themselves so they can invest in their own home. So they can build that equity. So they can build the stability of family and family life. So my encouragement this morning is for us to continue to build affordable housing, continue to build the quality of housing where one would want to live in this city and particularly in Queens because this is the best borough. I know it because in my 25 years of living here and raising my children I will attest there is no other place I would want to be. Let's make that the same theme for many others who will come to this borough and declare this is really the place I want to be and this is the place I believe I can raise my people with the kinds of values and quality that will ultimately guarantee their successes. If we do that I believe we'll burst the invisible walls of this borough and we'll be able to demonstrate to the rest of this city that we are the most qualitative of all the boroughs. Not that we are competitive, but there is a particular borough president today who does not speak to me simply because he feels we took resources from them. Ours is not to take resources from other boroughs. Ours is just to make sure we have the best and others want to be here. Whether it is the Federal Drug Administration or the FAA or whoever because this is just the place to be. Thank you very much.
WOLLMAN: Usually as you know it is not our practice to take questions. In fact we discourage it. In fact we don't allow it. There is an exception to the rule. Five minutes are there three or four question that the audience would like to ask?
VOICE: Did a good job. Praise the Lord.
REVEREND FLOYD H. FLAKE: I know who that is and I know what your question is.
VOICE: As an old timer resident who grew up in Rockaway you will find my beaches right now are closed off. There is a century group that keeps their beaches that a community would want to use, from the community. The boardwalk is like an expansion of nothing. There is nothing cultural up there really. There is nothing of a scientific nature like you have the Flushing Meadow Park facility. But I would like to address the issue of other than affordable housing what about some type of appreciation of the environment that exists in the Rockaway area so which can be enhanced and also can provide education to the local community and visitors. We don't have that.
REVEREND FLOYD H. Flake: Yeah. I think what you do when you talk about building whole communities and of course I talk about housing and schools and infrastructure. I think when you talk about community, you talk about whole community. The issues you raise have to do with developing a complete community plan and my thoughts would be that if we seriously move forward that the idea will be that you incorporate all the things necessary to make it the most qualitative environment that it can possibly be. Those things will naturally flow if in fact the investments are made in infrastructure, education and housing.
VOICE: We haven't really been prioritizing.
REVEREND FLOYD H. FLAKE: The issue is not where the priorities have come in large measure because nothing has happened yet. So I will tell you to have faith and be patient and wait a little while longer and I think some good things are happening. Mr. Baxter and then one more and then we'll be out of here.
VOICE: When the corporation counselor signed a contract with the City of New York in 1967 it got ten million dollars for the acquisition of the land and they was supposed to replace all the housing with low income housing. What happens now?
REVEREND FLOYD H. FLAKE: That was then and this is now. I think what we have to do is deal with a reality that I don't know what happened in 1967. I had not gotten to New York yet but my suspicion is that whatever plans were in 1967 it represents the past. We are moving to the future and I think the future looks much brighter.
VOICE: -- Government gives you money for a certain thing you can not do anything else with it. Is there a time limit on that?
REVEREND FLOYD H. FLAKE: Yeah. Those are particulars I don't know. The last question.
VOICE: Some quick questions. Where can smaller churches get the technical assistance to do the kind of development that your church has been so successful doing? And a follow up question not related is for people who are homeless and considered undesirable is there any plans to build houses for them?
REVEREND FLOYD H. FLAKE: I don't know what the plans are in terms of housing. To the question of what should do in terms of churches, what I said to City Finance Committee recently at a hearing was as they roll out this faith based initiative there is some components in it that ought to provide for some technical assistance to be given on the basis of those small groups that do not have capacity, building capacity and then providing them with technical resources necessary for levels of participation. Everybody can't be an Allen, but I think if there are collaborative efforts and I think it will take a lot of collaboration to rebuild Rockaway the way I think it ought to be, but I think it is possible to make that happen and I got to run.
VOICE: I've driven many times through Rockaway and my mother lived in Rockaway for years and I've always been amazed. You drive through Rockaway out into Nassau County and if you let the market play its role this property in Rockaway is probably one of the most valuable in the entire metropolitan area because of transportation and everything. Why is it so difficult for the City of New York to make a decision to put the thing on the open market, let the market forces take over and build?
REVEREND FLOYD H. FLAKE: And I think it is now going to be up for market and prayerful when the (inaudible) process is completed and I don't know what the time tables are on it that you will see that result and people will not be going to Nassau County. They'll stop in Rockaway. Thank you.
WOLLMAN: I would like to say to the gentleman who just asked the question about technical assistance I would like to say the Institute runs a certificate program in real estate which has two components to it. One which has been going on now for three years is a set of courses leading to a certificate for people who aspire to individual positions within the industry on a private sector basis. There is another component to the program which is just about to begin this coming fall which is geared to not for profit community organizations especially to provide them with some of the technical skills it will take to do not projects initially on the scale which Allen A.M.E Housing Corporation undertakes but projects which can make impacts on a small basis on many of the small lot issues which some of the lesser developed communities in the outer borough space. So if you contact the Institute anyone here will be able to find out more about these certificate programs. But the longer starting is geared exactly to the question which you asked. Let's move on.
Audrey Pheffer was born in Queens as a forty-three year resident of Far Rockaway. She attended Far Rockaway High School and is a Queens College graduate. Audrey was first elected to the New York State Assembly in a special election on April 28, 1987. She has been overwhelmingly reelected in every subsequent election. Audrey serves on the following committees. Aging Governmental Employees, Higher Education, Rules, Tourism, Art and Sports Development and Veteran Affairs. Audrey is also currently serving as secretary of the Legislative Women's Caucus of New York State. To the advent of the 1995 Legislative Session she was appointed by the reigning speaker to chair the Assembly Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee leaving her position of Chairperson of the Election Law Committee. As a recognized advocate of senior citizens Audrey served as chairperson of the subcommittee on outreach and oversight of senior citizens programs. Audrey's community involvement began in 1963 when she joined the Association for the Help of Retarded Children in the Rockaway auxiliary. Audrey still remains active with this organization and during the years helped to develop many useful programs including and after school and recreation program. From 1973 until 1977 Audrey worked at the Rockaway Occupational Training Center where she continued as an advocate for special education for the mentally disabled. No stranger to the issues of Arverne and the Rockaways, please join me in welcoming Audrey.
AUDREY PHEFFER: Thank you and thank you for inviting me and just a correction I was born in Brooklyn and chose with my family we vacationed in Rockaway five years before we chose to move there forty-five years ago so I went to Far Rockaway High School and just to have what Congressman Flake talked about having a vacation home as well as a winter home. I was asked to address some of the challenges confronting building and many of the challenges facing the future development in Rockaway are a result of the city's policies regarding the Rockaways in the fifties and sixties. The peninsula was mostly summer residents, tourists, daily tourists and the summer bungalows. The economy boomed in the summer. Stores in the main area of Far Rockaway thrived. Then it all changed. The city forced its change. There was no plan, just expedience. Urban renewal clearing the beachfront of summer bungalows leaving three hundred acres of beautiful beachfront vacant with no plan.
Now, over a quarter of our population about a hundred thousand people receive some kind of subsidy. It was much greater in the past year. They live in city public housing developments, senior citizen housing which accounts for over three thousand units its, Section 8 housing. Now we have more nursing homes and adult home residents per capita than any other area. The city's policy of putting the hard core unemployed and public assisted families in Rockaway where they know there was poor transportation and no jobs eliminated the economic boom causing businesses to leave. There stood a peninsula for over thirty-five years stagnant. Businesses would not come back. They saw nothing happening. Homes further deteriorated. The beachfront remained vacant. Areas were abandoned and buildings were being demolished leaving more and more vacant land. I believe the attention of the past city administrations were elsewhere. 42nd Street, Harlem, Long Island City, Jamaica; all received investment, priority status and they have flourished.
Finally, the peninsula has been rediscovered not by government at first, but by private developers who are building and selling market rate one and two family homes, restaurants on 116th Street that are doing very well. Artists who are buying old homes and developing studios. It has begun. We have seen more homes built in the past two years and sold than in the past thirty years. We have building all along the peninsula and I think that's what is important to say surrounding the Arverne area we are talking about and we'll talk about later today. In Far Rockaway where I live, any piece of property, private developers are going in. One and two family homes being sold. Playland that was abandoned for years, every piece of property there and beyond sold. Then finally on Beach 58th Street (inaudible) came in with affordable housing. The first time on the peninsula in probably thirty-five to forty years that building was in the middle of the peninsula. The city has joined in the growth. Eight hundred units, one thousand market rate housing being planned for Arverne.
However, the continued success of this and future development will depend on the city and state's complete commitment to Rockaway; something it has been lacking. The challenge to provide and improve transportation often on the peninsula must be addressed. The subway ride into Manhattan now takes one and a quarter to one and a half hours each way. Reactivating the Rockaway Beach line putting in a one stop ride could cut the trip to thirty-five minutes. The water as means of transportation must be explored and implemented at an affordable rate. Also the completion of the Nassau Expressway. We must also look to stimulate economic development. Of course new residents will create a need by expanding the economic development zone, will create a welcome environment for more businesses and job opportunity. Businesses in Rockaway are at a disadvantage when it comes to attracting customers from off the peninsula. That's because of the Crossbay Bridge toll. We must continue to fight for that elimination of the toll for nonresidents. We look at that as a continuation of the streak and people from other ends of the Queens have to pay to come to another part of Queens called the Rockaways.
The overcrowding of our schools can only be addressed with the planning and building of new ones. Rockaway has many challenges confronting its revert. However, it has begun and we must be prepared. We have a wonderful opportunity to develop a plan and I believe the keyword is plan. A plan that will not only build a new large-scale development in Arverne, but also recognizes the needs of better transportation, the need to improve and builds schools, the need for economic and job development and the need for all the residents and that's recreation. We must address that in any large-scale plan. The Rockaways is a wonderful and unique peninsula surrounded by the ocean and bay with over three hundred acres of vacant land waiting for you, the builders and developers and I, representing government will stand with you together. We'll work to make Rockaway continue in its revert and I thank you.
WOLLMAN: Steven Spinola, President of the Real Estate Board of New York as Chief Executive Officer of the Real Estate Industry's leading trade association. The Real Estate Board membership includes over forty-eight hundred ranking owners, developers, brokers, etcetera and other individuals and institutions including the Steven Newman Real Estate Institute, professionally involved in Manhattan real property. The board is a vigorous advocate of policies to promote local economic growth, residential construction and rehabilitation. REBNY represents industry positions before various legislative regulatory and executive government bodies, conducts extensive research programs and publishes studies of its findings on a host of policy issues and market trends. Prior to becoming president in June of 1986 Steve Spinola served as President of the New York City Public Development Corporation, the municipal government's principal institute for spurring large-scale commercial and industrial development and rehabilitation programs in New York. Mayor Koch also assigned the lead responsibility for developing the city's waterfront to the corporation. Among the projects in which the Public Development Corporation was involved while Steve was out of town included the South Street Seaport, the 42nd Street Redevelopment Program, the Morgan Stanley Computer Center scheduled for Downtown Brooklyn, the College Point Corporate Park in Queens and Fordham Plaza in the Bronx. Please join me in welcoming Steven Spinola.
STEVEN SPINOLA: I am supposed to talk about assets of Queens County and the housing problems. One of the great assets of Queens County is its people and leaders. Audrey, Reverend Flake and maybe the greatest asset to Queens County is its Borough President, Claire Shulman. She is an extraordinary person who lives Queens and you walk into a room and you see Claire across the room and you say what can I do to help Queens because you know if she sees you she's going to walk up to you and say what are you doing to help Queens County? She's probably the greatest argument against term limits so we appreciate all of her leadership and help.
New York City's housing problems have been well documented over the years. Our residential vacancy rate has dropped from percent in '96 to 3.1 percent in 1999. Affordability continues to be an issue. One out of every four renter households some five hundred and twenty-five thousand people pay more than half of their income to rent. If you leave out the low income and just talk about middle income renters they spend more than thirty percent of their income on rents. According to the housing and vacancy survey there are a hundred and fifty thousand doubled up renter households in the city. Low levels of production have not kept up with demands. During the 1990's New York City produced less than ten thousand units per year. According to the 2000 census the population of Queens is up fourteen percent with 2,229,379 residents; the highest ever. If each New York City borough were a separate city, Queens would be the fourth largest in the country after L.A., Chicago, and Brooklyn. The population is extremely diverse and per capita income has been increasing. The 1999 housing and vacancy survey found the 3.1 vacancy rate for New York City in Queens vacancy rate was even lower; somewhere close to two percent, the lowest of the five boroughs.
Queens is a borough of one and two family homes. Nearly eighty-five percent of the residential lot in Queens represents one and two family homes. Some of them may be three family homes but that's (inaudible). Total number of dwelling units in Queens is seven hundred and eighty six thousand units. In the eighteen years between 1941 and 1959 Queens built over a hundred and eighty-two thousand new units. In the thirty-nine years between 1960 and 1999 only a hundred and seventy-one thousand new dwelling units were completed in Queens County. Many neighborhoods have seen new production recently including Jamaica, Flushing, Elmhurst, Astoria and Queens West. In the last five years permits for new dwelling units have more than doubled from thirteen hundred and one in 1996 to twenty-seven hundred in 2000. If we compare the boroughs of Manhattan and Queens we see that Queens is almost five times as much land as Manhattan. Seventy-one thousand, seven hundred acres in Queens compared to the fifteen thousand acres in Manhattan. Queens has nearly seven hundred thousand more people than Manhattan, but only for thousand more housing units. These numbers are results of smaller household size in Manhattan and lower density development in Queens.
However, they point out that Queens has the capacity to absorb many more units of housing that would help ease the housing crunch in New York City. In the last four decades Manhattan with its small land area produced two hundred and thirteen thousand new units of housing. Twenty-five percent more than what was produced in Queens. In fiscal year 2001 residential buildings in Manhattan generated more than double the property taxes generated by residential buildings in Queens. The topic of today's discussion is large-scale housing development in Queens and I am not going to talk about Arverne but that is clearly an asset for Queens County and the City of New York. We believe Queens is an ideal place for new housing of all kinds. What actions do we need to take? Over the last fifteen years there have been a number of changes to the zoning resolution that have impacted Queens. These include zoning and reductions in density in many established residential neighborhoods. We believe it is time for the city to pursue both rezoning of under utilized manufacturing land and increases in density in selected areas. Queens has much more park land than Manhattan. Nearly seventy-two hundred acres compared to twenty-six hundred acres. Although its mass transit needs to be improved it is an excellent mass transit system. It has an extensive waterfront facing the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, Jamaica Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Increases in density must be done in an environmentally responsible way and must respect existing neighborhoods, but it must be done. The possibility of contamination in soil and ground water on a piece of property especially in a formerly industrial site can hinder the redevelopment of that property to residential use.
According to the Department of Finance, there are over five hundred and fifty acres of vacant land in manufacturing zoning districts into the Borough of Queens. REBNY has made recommendations to New York State concerning the necessary element of a Brown Fields program. These include certainty as to the required level of (inaudible) based upon the proposed land use that would be protective of the health of users and the safe for the environment, liability releases for innocent landlords and developers who do not contribute to pollution on the site and wish to clean up and redevelop the property and tax credits to help facilitate these projects.
We need to enhance housing financing programs. We must always be mindful that while construction costs in Queens are the same in Manhattan and often more if there is a need for substantial infrastructure like in Arverne. The achievable rents and sales prices are much lower. The following recommendations are part of what REBNY has put together in a published report we are presenting to the six candidates for mayor.
First issue is the issue of affordable housing for middle income families. We need to expand the HDC Middle Income Program. The city has long faced the problem of providing affordable housing for middle income families. High development costs traditionally force owners to charge rents exceeding the budget of working families. Under the current HDC Income Program the maximum rents that can be charged are roughly twenty-one dollars per square foot. Given the high land acquisition costs in most areas which can approach thirty-five thousand dollars per unit, developers need to charge closer to thirty dollars per square foot to justify going forward. This has kept developers from utilizing the program, which in turn has slowed production of affordable housing for middle income families. The HDC program targets people earning up to two hundred and fifty percent of area medium income and provides housing at moderate cost. It works hand in hand with efforts to expand our city's employment base by helping to make the city affordable for the many working people who now not only work here, but also want to live here. In many instances projects have combined commercial and residential uses therefore creating permanent jobs providing needed services to residential neighborhoods and increasing the supply of affordable housing. Without any expenditure of city dollars (inaudible) has produced more than two thousand units of housing and thirty different projects throughout the five boroughs in just two years. A commitment of city dollars to this program will enable the large scale production of (inaudible) units. We suggest that at least a hundred million dollars be dedicated to this program for a five year period. The clear commitment will help attract developers to this effort and allow for an expansion of the program parameters to develop a significant production pipeline.
We need more funding to facilitate affordable mixed use income and low income housing. We need to increase the amounts of taxes and bonds available for new housing. Each year the federal government allocates that each state their share of funding for private activity bonds. Private activity bonds are tax exempt securities issued by state and local government which can be used for production of housing which are tax exempt. The allocation is also referred to as the volume cap. Recent federal legislation will provide the city with an additional forty million in volume cap this year and eighty million in 2002. Which its recent increase we suggest that a minimum of seventy-five million dollars of volume cap be dedicated to HDC at the beginning of each year. Certain programs such as the disposition of city owned vacant buildings will depend on the availability of volume cap to HDC. Setting aside volume cap for these and other worthwhile housing initiatives will greatly facilitate the production of affordable mixed income and low income housing.
This up front commitment which will still amount to less than half of what the city annually receives will greatly facilitate sustained housing production efforts. Its high operating costs for owners who have the negative effect of keeping grant for new buildings beyond the reach of New Yorkers. One program that attempts to deal with that is the 421-A Tax Exemption Program. Current exemption programs need to be extended to lower operating costs for housing to make it affordable. Since property taxes are the highest of these costs the best way to reduce operating cost is by lowering the tax burden on property. This can be accomplished by extending 421-A benefits for new construction to ten more years. Section 421-A Real Estate Tax Exemption Program provides for benefits ranging from fifteen to twenty-five years for newly constructed apartment buildings outside of Manhattan or in Manhattan north of 96th Street. Extending the benefit period will help reduce the amounts of up front subsidies needed for affordable housing projects and therefore the city may actually save capital budget dollars by adopting this proposal.
There was a large stock of vacant and obsolete industrial and commercial property that could be converted into housing by modifying existing tax exemption programs. Reusing these buildings will help preserve community character, promote mixed use and accelerate this reuse of new housing. We suggest we permit 421-A benefits for conversion which is now not permitted except in lower Manhattan. The 421-A program offers a tax exemption of up to twenty-five years for newly constructed residential buildings. Most new residential developments today make use of this program, however benefits are not available for conversions. Conversions of commercial industrial property for residential use is a quick and economical way to produce new housing and would restore an earlier benefit available under 421-A. By new construction the level of benefits including an abatement on the value of existing buildings should be based on the location of the property. Conversion benefits are a housing incentive and a neighborhood revitalization program.
In lower Manhattan, Residential Diversion Program which is known as 421-G is a prime example of how obsolete office buildings can be converted into new houses. Since its inception in 1995, four thousand new residential units have been converted with another one thousand planned while the office vacancy rate has fallen from twenty-five percent to five percent. A program this successful should be employed throughout the city and allowing 421-A benefits for conversion is a simple way to accomplish this. The production of affordable housing either through new construction or substantial renovation of existing buildings is substantially below the demand for these units. There are ways to involve the private sector in building such units. We suggest we amend the 421-A program to receive fifteen year real property tax exemptions for the creation of off site development or substantial rehabilitation of affordable housing units. The 421-A program currently permits the receipt of a ten year exemption for the developments of off site affordable housing. There is no limitation on which buildings, condo and co-op and rentals can receive the benefit.
Frequently, the sale of the ten year exemption for market rate building provides a portion of the financing for the off site low income housing. To increase the privately financed production of affordable housing a fifteen year exemption, full exemption during construction (inaudible) seven years and twenty percent biannual phasing over eight to fifteen years but off site affordable housing for new construction or substantial renovation of city owned or city identified (inaudible) stress buildings would create more affordable housing. By offering the same exemption benefits for new construction and substantial renovation the proposal has the dual impact of spurring the development of affordable housing as well as generating private equity to support anti-abandonment initiatives. The proposal will create a very strong incentive for the vacant and occupied city owned residential buildings to be converted into affordable housing without the use of governmentally financed rehabilitation loans. Queens is indeed a strategic asset for the future of New York City. Various estimates of housing needs suggest we need thirty to forty thousand new units each year to keep up with the demand and replace lost units. Where are those units going to go? The Borough of Queens with its large land area and many resources is one place that needs to be ambitious in its housing construction goal and I urge you to look at that.
Queens County, that is, of course the issue of affordability. Question is Arverne -- one of the questions for Congressman Flake was the issue with why hasn't it happened. There are a lot of reasons why. The infrastructure cost is phenomenal. You can not build buildings, you can't get developers or financial institutions to put up money when they look at the bottom line and it is a question of both proposition. The truth is you can not build housing other than one and two family homes in this city without substantial assistance, subsidies. There are a lot of reasons behind that. Whether it is contractual agreement with labor who deserve to have a fair living, zoning requirements. We have gone to the city to say especially in the Borough of Queens and other boroughs, why can't we change the building codes so that we can build the same kinds of structures that are being built across the country without much subsidies for middle income people? We have the toughest standard in terms of construction in the country right here in New York City and that adds substantially to the cost of construction. We need to get real as to how to deal with the housing problem. I urge you as we go through the next year looking at and listening to candidates who would look to be mayor or borough president and ask them what their position is and how we are going to create housing in the City of New York. Thank you very much.
WOLLMAN: Thank you, Steve. Steve mentioned three issues that I would like to highlight for a moment because this is sort of the last events of the academic year for the Institute. There is a summer pause and we begin again with a round of conferences, seminars and publications and the educational programs in September. Steve mentioned three issues which are core to the Institute's own agenda for next year. One is the question of zoning. We are going to both sponsor a special event that I am not quite able to talk about yet today. With the help of Julien Studley and the Municipal Art Society on issues of rezoning in Midtown West. Some of you may remember that was one of the major conferences which the Institute sponsored this year and over the summer those of you who are on our mailing list and I hope every one is here would hear about that.
The second issue and the thrust of much of Steve's remarks is rightly on the question of the finance of middle income housing. Let's not even use the word affordable for the moment in terms of low income. Just the issues regarding the finances of middle income housing. In September the first of the Institute's conferences in September, the Annual Finance Conference will focus on issues of the finance of middle income housing. We'll begin with a presentation of what it takes and why it takes what it takes, some of the issues that Steve also addressed today and go into a variety of proposals some of which we talked about, others of which will emerge in the course of that morning.
The third issue Steve touched on only briefly but which we think is a growing issue in terms of addressing housing supply issues on the city is a question of brown fields. You may not think there are brown Fields in New York but low and behold there are brown fields in New York and they represent development opportunity for us. Later in the spring of 2002 we're going to have in the industry government seminar and one of the seminars will be devoted to the issues of brown fields, development, and regulatory issues in regard to them, finance issues and a focus on the major brown field sites in New York City. So please make sure that you are on the mailing list if you are not and we invite you to attend each of these events even though I guess Steven Spinola has said much of what we'll no doubt be talking about as usual. I am really a terrible host of these things especially when I would like to be somewhat more informal.
I would like to ask Marc Viggiano and Eric Bluestone as well as Steve if they would not mind sitting up here for the remainder of the second part of the morning events. It gives me great pleasure to introduce Marc Viggiano, the Assistant Vice President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. Marc is also the Director of the College Point Corporate Park in Queens. I believe there is a brochure about that available this morning on one of the tables outside and he has completed several residential projects in Long Island, New York and the suburb of Michigan. Please join me in welcoming Marc.
MARC VIGGIANO: Good morning. Thank you all for coming. My name is Marc and I work in the real estate division of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The mission of EDC is in quotes to serve the catalyst of public and private initiatives that promote long term economic vitality of New York City. I was hired by EDC to promote economic development by selling city owned parks within the College Point Corporate Park. I guess I should thank Steve for basically creating a job for me. You might ask what does a -- thank you -- you might ask: What does a corporate park have to do with large-scale housing development? In my opinion, College Point is surrounded by several large-scale housing developments. They are called residential communities. The two directly impact one another. If you open your brochure and I don't know if everyone has picked these up but in the insert you will see surrounded in yellow is the College Point Corporate Park and bordering that area is all residential. On the back of the brochure you can see the diversity of the tenants and those are that have a significant role and impact on a residential community. The back portion you will have the detailed development which is along 20th Avenue which consists of Waldbaums, Target, BJ's Wholesale, Circuit City. We have large developers that had a significant impact to College Point with us. Also further diversifying the Corporate Park which consists of New York Times, BMN Starkman, and then further even more so is the office aspect which is (inaudible) which is at the northern portion of the Corporate Park. Some statistics that are associated with the park are as follows.
The neighboring community has over a hundred thousand people that directly use and have to transfer through the Corporate Park on a daily basis. Also existing within that yellow boundary are a hundred and seventy-five businesses. The Corporate Park is approximately a hundred and fifty acres and of that one hundred and seventy-five businesses it employs about six thousand people. There is also a half million square feet of retail that is not only on 20th Avenue but along the Whitestone Service Drive there is the Toys R' Us, Kids R' us, and the Multiplex Cinema. As you can see the park is very diverse and this diversity is not done in a half hazard fashion. Development in the park must pass through two significant markers; the first which is the Urban Renewal Plan. The Urban Renewal Plan was established in 1968 and it is an overlay to the existing zoning. For some of you who have dealt with (inaudible) for those of you who served it is a certificate and much more stringent set of rules and regulations that development must follow. It deals with landscaping, setback requirements, parking, building materials and so forth.
The development is then submitted to EDC for review. If the development is in compliance with the Urban Renewal Plan it goes on to the public approval process which is the second step. Here, the development presented to the College Point Task Force which is made up of numbers (inaudible) in the area and from that point it goes on to the community board and then the community board and the borough board. So you can see not only the residents and the Corporate Park must work together if they want to see development happen. In addition to selling city owned property with the purpose of economic development, EDC also manages the Corporate Park. We are able to do this by financing (inaudible) improvement funds. EDC is able to higher a full time six man maintenance crew to keep the park clean and safe. The crew is responsible for removal, landscaping up keeps, monitoring of general activities within the Corporate Park. For problems that exist beyond the crew's capability we employed the other city agencies to lend a hand.
For example, one particular property which is (inaudible) for numerous years which is Flushing Airport which has had historical problems with illegal activity, stolen vehicles. Most recently the West Nile Virus. Although the West Nile Virus is the false alarm on the airport it was still a major issue and above all the department had to be called in, the Department of Sanitation was one, The Department of Health, the Police Department, EDC Environmental Conservation, all help to make the area safer and healthier which has had a direct impact to the residential community adjacent. The fund from the improvement fund are also put toward road improvements, sidewalk repair graffiti removal, tree replacements, all of which has had a direct impact to the residential housing developments.
In short, the city of (inaudible) while serving adjacent communities and allowing businesses to either remain or establish in the New York metropolitan area. This is public private partnership, I feel, at its best. Thank you.
WOLLMAN: Eric Bluestone is a partner in the Bluestone Organization, third generation builder developer of housing in New York City predominantly in the Borough of Queens. The Bluestone Organization has developed affordable for sale and rental housing projects in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan through numerous city and state or federal programs both as builder, developer and a general contractor for local not for profit organizations. Eric graduated from the Warton School of Finance at the university of Pennsylvania. Prior to joining the family business was involved in various real estate related professions including commercial real estate and mortgage broker and, real estate management. Eric is the President of the Queens County Builders and Contractor's Association. Please join me in welcoming Eric Bluestone.
ERIC BLUESTONE: Last time I spoke at the Institute I was doubly cursed with failure in my powerpoint presentation and no air conditioning so I thank Reverend Flake for being here and blessing. As Henry mentioned, Bluestone Organization is a third generation builder developer and the majority of our work has been in Queens. My great grandfather and grandmother immigrated to this country and settled in Queens in about 1908 and my grandfather started a construction business and he was -- he built through the depression. My grandfather continued the business until he passed away. My father and my uncles ran the business and just recently my father the youngest of three brothers retired to everybody's surprise.
So the next generation there are five of us continuing the business. Our work is encompassed basically all aspects of residential housing in Queens from the onset of the single family housing and market rate rental housing apartment buildings primarily in the Flushing area and then we were one of the developers in the New York City Housing Partnership Program working. First project was in (inaudible) Gardens. Then the opportunity to work with Reverend Flake and his district in Jamaica. I am sorry Mike Lappin isn't here because I would like to disagree with something he said last week about starting the work with the first 80/20 buildings in Queens. This is the first 80/20 twenty building in Queens. We developed this building with the New York City Development Corporation. The building was completed in 1996. The majority of our focus of our work from that point on has been middle income housing. We have been working substantially with the New York City Development Corporation through their new housing opportunities program and have completed two projects in Queens. This in Rego Park. A hundred and thirty-two apartments completed in 2000. And this is it on Franklin Avenue in Flushing. Fifty-four apartments we currently have another project which we are in the process of completing in Forest Hill on 67th Road and as Steve mentioned earlier, you know, the expansion of the middle income programs is very important and I am going to make the focus of my presentation on middle income housing and I am going to try to fill in if there were any gaps in Steve's presentation I'll try to fill in some of those gaps. He did a pretty good job of stealing my thunder.
Basically the issues we are dealing with in developing in Queens are the issues that are predominant to the entire city like being the egocentric developers we are we like to think of only the issues about Queens and its outer boroughs. As far as land is concerned people bemoan the issues of available land but statistics show the land availability is really much greater than we know. To digress for a second kind of off subject, the one thing I think is kind of telling which Steve mentioned and I know Peter has mentioned a couple of times is one of the things that makes Queens so attractive is the availability of parks and recreations. Eleven thousand acres of parks and recreational facilities. That is really what makes Queens a real destination place for living and working in the city.
But there is five thousand acres of vacant land in the city which could be developed depending on zoning and other issues for housing and there is definitely a lead in housing as Steve mentioned earlier the demand for housing has substantially out stripped the supply. Based on the year 2000 census the number of households in Queens increased approximately one and a half times the amount of housing that was built. So I guess we got a job to do and we have got to work on broaching those issues. As far as land and the cost you know the cost of land because of the relatively low amount of privately owned land and because I am talking about large-scale housing development, our method of large-scale housing development is fifty units at a time. We are building a community. We have seen the cost of land double in the past three or four years from as low as fifteen to nineteen dollars per square foot to some recent fields in excess of forty dollars per buildable square foot and that has tremendous impact on the cost of housing, obviously.
Again, as far as zoning is concerned the land issues there is a lot of under utilized land in Queens as in other parts of the city but substantially in Queens. It is really necessary for us to look at maintaining the manufacturing industrial base that is still in the city and will be still relative to Queens but also to try to work to look at areas we can possibly rezone and turn into housing available land because it is going to be necessary in order to keep up with the demand. The brown field issue is a substantial issue because I know there are a lot of pieces of land out there that developers won't touch simply because of the concerns of liability. Stepping into a piece of land that we have walked away from -- a couple of deals that we have found that while it seemed like the remediation costs could possibly be manageable for potential liability basically made the proposal for developing that site infeasible. As far as construction costs it is no secret that construction costs in New York City are the highest in the country and construction costs in Queens are no less than they are in Manhattan. The two aspects of construction costs because bricks and water we have very little control over, but as far as labor is concerned, to develop affordable housing in Queens is very difficult to do at prevailing wages. We tried to, through various organizations I am involved in, tried to work with organized labor to come to the realization that by protecting their constituency they are actually damaging the market and hurting themselves. You know, you have to think back to the days when unions actually subsidized housing. Well, this is an opportunity for the unions to get together as a coalition with the developers with the city and other agencies to try to look at ways to make affordable housing more affordable.
The other issue is fees and taxes. You know through the Queens County Building Contract Association we have made a proposal to the city and state to take a look at the issue of fees and taxes between building department fees, Department of Environmental Protection fees, DOT fees as well as transfer taxes, mortgage reporting taxes and you know, other sales taxes on materials you are talking about in excess of sometimes ten percent of development cost. In areas where development is hindered by affordability then it is really, we think it is a no brainer that it will be a revenue neutral proposal to wave those types of fees and taxes for development in areas that the market won't allow for that type of development. We are getting some attention to that proposal and we are hoping future administrations will take it more seriously.
Regulatory environment in cities is daunting. Anybody who's been through the process of development, even as of right development, it is just -- there is a ghost on every corner. You know, there really has to be some focus on trying to get the regulatory environment to the point where it is builder friendly because that's the only way we're going to see the type of large-scale housing development be able to keep up with demand. Zoning regulations is complicated and what you think you have as of right somebody will shoot down. When you think you have the ability to be able to take care of use of benefits you find out you are not and then at the last minute politics sometimes steps in and as of right development becomes infeasible.
The latest review process, we have been involved with projects that have gone now (inaudible) for five years. For a developer -- and these are property where they were city owned. We were a developer who actually owned the land. Five years would obviously be unconscionable. Nobody can carry a piece of land for that long and build affordable housing. So we need to work on the land use review process. The building code is also complicated but even more so it is built in suspenders. We have some of the most stringent codes in the city and we have got fire proof buildings and sprinklers. We have got a lot of things that, you know, if we took a look at the way we build we'd probably be able to offer the same standard of construction if not better and more affordable by reducing or replacing some of our building codes.
Approval process, all I have to say is building department in a room of builders and everybody jumps down my throat, so. We have been waiting on some projects six months to a year and I mean it is just unconscionable in this market and there no reason other than because this clerk didn't push the right button or something didn't get inputted or somebody found, you know, open demo permit from twenty years ago when the city demolished the building. Building department obviously, needs total reform.
Financing, I mean Steve said if all. We really have to expand the financing and incentives for middle income development. There was a lot of attention paid to low income development ten, twenty, thirty years ago up until now. And we lost the middle income market in the process. What we really need to do is take programs like the (inaudible) program and I know HFA has been working on a middle income program and make them not only more -- make development of middle income housing more economically feasible, but also there has got to be a long term buy in. We got to insist that the developers, you know, maintain that. There shouldn't be the (inaudible) situations. We really need to work on that type of financing.
The constant dilemma we are faced with when we look at a piece of land is luxury versus affordable. There are definitely communities in the city which can command the 30+ dollars per square foot rents that Steve mentioned earlier. The problem is those rents are not affordable to the large part of the middle income market we are trying to cater to. But we look at, you know, the combination of finance and the regulatory environmental cost and sometimes it is really a hard decision for us to make to be able to commit property to middle income development because of the risks that go along with it. Sometimes you have people are looking for the, you know, the easy score on luxury development. We have been lucky to be able to work with the (inaudible) to make the deals end up in middle income development as we feel they should and we are hoping other developers will ultimately come to the same decision. They can't -- there is no such thing as affordable housing, middle income or otherwise in the city without some type of governmental assistance. That has to be focused with the next administration. It has been to a lesser extent I think both through this administration through a lot of programs that we have worked on HPD and HBC, but it really has to be addressed more seriously going forward and I think that the special attention really has to be created toward middle income development because that's really where the need is. Peter mentioned earlier in his presentation this morning about the build it and they'll come philosophy. There here. Okay, so we have got a job to do. So thank you very much.
WOLLMAN: I would like to thank the three panelists Steven Spinola, Marc Viggiano and Eric Bluestone for joining us this morning and giving us this overview of issues in regard to middle income housing. Maybe put the lights on. I would like to ask the next Jim Lima, Rosalie Genevro, and Jonathan Gaska to join us in here. Eric, I sympathize with the problem of following Steven Spinola. Many of us have done it and no doubt many of us will have it again but there it is. So thank you again all three. We will take a break in roughly forty-five to fifty minutes but we want to begin the discussion now on Arverne with Jim Lima the Assistant Commissioner from the Department of Housing, Preservation and Development. Before introducing Jim there is a person reminiscence I guess I would like to go through to show you how old the Arverne tale is. In my -- as some of you know, I run a real estate development company along with my role here in the Institute and just before starting the company which is in 1989 I worked for a year on the proposal for the city of Arverne in the last three years grand HPD, RFP process which was hardly the first. We were -- when I say I, it was the architect representing one of the large developers in the city. There were many submissions and there are previous iterations of light such as that, that go way back into the middle sixties in dealing with the Arverne problem. So I guess that all of us wish Jim Lima and HPD the best of luck in moving the latest iteration forward in some real light way answering some of the remarks or at least some of the issues that were addressed to Floyd Flake and some of your questions.
Jim Lima has served as the Assistant Commissioner for the Division of New Construction at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development since 1996. Responsible for implementing affordable housing and economic development initiatives that utilize the city's extensive vacant land inventory and public and private funding sources. Today Jim has helped spur construction start on nearly five thousand mixed income residential units and more than seven hundred and fifty thousand square feet of retail development through a variety of HBD sponsored initiatives including the 80/20 rental program, the Anchor Home Ownership of Retail Programs citywide. The expense of Gateway Estate project in East New York, twenty-four new apartment buildings for the corner stone program in Harlem, housing in the outer boroughs through the new foundations initiative, townhouses under the partnership new homes and a line of programs and other large-scale development projects including the redevelopment of sites in the Clinton urban renewal area. The three hundred acre oceanfront Arverne urban renewal area represent Jim's latest challenge. Please join me in welcoming Jim Lima.
JIM LIMA: Thank you, Henry. Good morning everyone. It is very encouraging to see so many people here. A lot of people who have been actively working with us to develop the framework for developing plans for ardor in this generation. Henry reminded me of how challenging, as difficult as all those other things we are working on, Arverne is particularly complex. But someone recently described it to me as Arverne being seductive but resistant. I think that's our first impression. As you go there you just can't believe we had the opportunity to give Mayor Giuliani a tour of the Arverne site and we were deciding how to move forward with our commitment of public funding on the site. Throughout the tour he just kept shaking his head almost in disbelief that the city could possibly own three hundred oceanfront acres and that they would lie vacant. Also encouraged to see so many faces from all the various development teams. (inaudible). Encouraging that they not only spent a lot of money on a lot of proposals but the interest is there.
I want to do three things. One is a quick recap on history of Arverne. Certainly Audrey Pheffer did a great job and said in the context in talking about trends. Just a few minutes to remember what Arverne was and how that has fueled a lot of people's excitement and romanticism but also real optimism that Arverne is in such an extraordinary location. Then I want to talk a little bit about how we do consensus building and how the investment by a public agency in community driven plans in consensus building is not only the right way to plan, but it builds predictability for a development process as complex and large-scale as say in Arverne, and how it really has lead to I think an implementable plan.
Lastly I want to talk about the RP and some of the challenges. I am trying to be quick on all of this. Let's first take a look at Arverne and what it was. Most people are probably somewhat familiar with the history of Arverne. It runs from 84th Street to Beach 32nd Street. Of course, runs right along the city owned boardwalk to the public beach and unlike no other place in America you got a transit line that runs straight into midtown Manhattan. That's the advantage of the site. The history you probably know. Really luxury residential resort community. Some of the grandest Victorian hotels and resort architecture. A little bit of Nantucket and Coney Island and incredible density; incredibly prosperous. Easily accessible as transit lines ran out to the Rockaways but without a lot of competition.
So you got extraordinary groups of people in terms of sheer numbers of people who were able to come. Also really desirable quality of life which ultimately corroded (inaudible) trend. Here are some of the images. It is almost unbelievable, given that vacant site you just saw that this was what Arverne was. An incredible investment of private capital entrepreneurial investment to bring people to the shore because it had so few options like these really elegant hotels and it is hard to look at this image of the boardwalk and ambitious steel pier that went out into the ocean right at Arverne with public uses and jobs and retail and now think we can possibly allow the shorefronts of Arverne to be completely privatized; that we could possibly do anything but maintain some public space and some public amenity. Also to create public place. Somewhere in this Arverne plan we have got to maintain a public place where people can come and have that Arverne waterfront experience. So as much as you want to take high quality residential plan and reinforce all things that make that sort of private investment in residential possible, we are really proud in this concept with there being some public place and public amenity. Some romantic images of what it was like. I don't know if you, by a show of hands here anybody has some direct tie to families going to Rockaway and spending time on bungalow beaches but it is amazing how many people say they went with their families or their grandmother or aunt or had a little bungalow somewhere in the Rockaways. These little houses here were just terrific building types at the time for people to have a low cost way for people to come to the shore. It gradually involved into more of a middle class community where people could come and find relief from the urban section. But as people have mentioned both through changes in people's options in terms of air travel and building of highways throughout the region, people have other choices. So the immediate location of going to the Rockaways fell prey to other more attractive options. Competition also clearly various forms of other points besides airplanes contributed to a diminishing quality of life.
Interestingly and unfortunately, a lot of the city's urban renewal effort especially lower east side and Hell's Kitchen and other places there are lot of relocatees those slum areas to the Rockaways. I think that's part of the cynical, well slash and burn of urban renewal that also the cynical placement of people in such isolated areas as the Rockaways where it clearly looked like there were very limited job opportunities and other opportunities. Next.
This is one of the last remaining blocks of the old Rockaway bungalows looks like. This is really an absolute disgrace. This block is in derelict condition. This is how it got. It is still quite deplorable. Extreme high not to mention code violations. There is a reason in the last fifteen years most of this has been cleared. This is one of the very last. I think there are a lot of opportunities to be creative about the sort of building types we could reintroduce into Rockaway but I think we have to be very careful about how we go about it.
Here's a view today of that almost the same vantage point. If you think about that boardwalk where the steel pier going out into the ocean. (inaudible). No parking lot, no amenities. There is really no reason to come here. You don't feel safe. You don't want to come here even to use the beach because there is absolutely no facility. Next slide.
Various things lead up to what people considered one of the more hopeful opportunities to redevelop Arverne. That was large-scale plan that went through public discussion and review in the late eighties. Included this plan adopted by the Board of Estimate at its last session in 1990. Before that there were a number of other attempts. As the site was cleared in the sixties and seventies there were various proposals and I can't put my hand on images but we have seen proposals where trailer parks are just supposed to be lying on the entire site almost like wallpaper has been and extremely (inaudible). Another proposal which I think Reuben Wolf was directly involved in at the time was trying to convince casinos and other recreational and commercial uses to come in the middle seventies and that was one of the forays that Donald Trump made into development on site. Fortunately, that did not happen. I think we learned a lot from Atlantic City and difficulty of building large-scale commercial development and how we are not particularly good, at least in America, of incorporating that successfully into a residential context.
Along came this plan and had a fairly innovative building type. It was a four, five story walk up, no elevator plan, that tucked all the parking under every building. You dealt with the (inaudible) by putting all the parking under all the buildings and then you walked up into the interior courtyard and essentially from that interior courtyard you went up to what were like brownstones lining an interior building. It was an unattested building type. As is true of so much of what has in the Arverne experience this has fell victim to extremely bad timing. We'll never know if this would have been a successful plan. It was largely multi-family ownership and that is probably one of the vulnerabilities of the plan as well. It was a fairly speculative plan and fairly high cost.
So as we move forward beyond this plan which a density on the site of about seventy-five hundred units we turn back to what we have been extremely successful at in New York City in every neighborhood from Ocean Hill to South Bronx to Harlem to other places, which is home ownership but at a lower scale. High density, but lower scale. That's the townhouse model. Oh, I am sorry. I would be remitted if I didn't stop along the way to 1998 when the (inaudible) family came to New York and generated a lot of excitement with an extremely ambitious I think two billion dollar recreational entertainment plan called Techno Dome. This would be a giant enclosed family entertainment center complete with indoor giant slaloms, and proposed to encapsulate part of the boardwalk in a bubble. It was a different project in terms of finance and its success probably would have generated the kind of surged traffic on the summer weekend that traffic planners analyzed would require widening the Van Wyck Expressway and perhaps the Belt Parkway by at least two lanes each. That drove infrastructure cost estimate into the hundreds of millions and ultimately the city and state never made the commitment that was going to be required.
So I think some version of this plan may go forward in Canada, but it is not happening in the Rockaways. The Community Board 14 which has really been very critical to the successes of the latest plan call on the city to think of an alternative plan as we were looking at the Techno Dome proposal to go back to the more traditional mixed use of residential with commercial. So we establish a task force which would essentially step back from the (inaudible) plan and say what does the community want here? What was it about that (inaudible) city plan that ultimately did generate some controversy and how can we build in components (inaudible) that was very responsive to what the community wanted, but that we understood was crowded. I think Steve Spinola really zeroed in on the financing options that really drive our ability to do higher density building. The multi-family market requires various forms of subsidy and programs. We are successfully implementing that on a number of sites. But there was a growing concern of higher density as being somewhat (inaudible). So the task force that included Community Board 14 the borough president office and other elected officials and an array of city agencies and professional development consultant teams to do design met fairly extensively over a couple of years period to pull together first a design concept, but a set of guidelines for the RP. That was a great process. It was extremely collaborative. It was broadly represented. Everybody had an opportunity, actually a dozen opportunities at public hearings and public forums to express their concerns. One major one right up front was we don't want only housing. We want economic development.
Arverne is our last and greatest opportunity to raise the economic base of the Rockaways. The levels of distress and poverty and lack of job opportunities and services is still fairly high although certainly Audrey Pheffer has given us extremely encouraging news that the private market has segued into a lot of private finance investment and that is the sort of foundation for what we are proposing to do. So the task force plan essentially became the plan in our RP. And parts of that plan was to get an early start on development so I am happy to say that eighty new units are already built and mostly occupied and in 1999 the Briar Woods organization based in Queens built the first townhouse development in decades in what we call an area that has scattered home ownership where private ownership has held out through all this in a three block cluster of vacant land and houses. So these are houses built on the scattered vacant lot in between those private homes. It is a high quality house by a builder who has an established track record. I think they are completely sold out. I think you are going to hear a word or two about that later this morning. That was encouraging.
Now we are in the scary part which is how do you move ahead on very large-scale? Again, we are trying to have an impact here and there are a number of agencies and government sponsors. Another -- I want to mention that in (inaudible) another builder under our partnership program is building two family townhouses. I think these are important things to know. These will be in construction this year. Combine that with Housing Authority's incredibly large, from a hundred and sixty-five million dollars of funding to the (inaudible) program to both upgrade Housing Authority buildings that are immediate and approximate to Arverne, but also to build new things like recreation centers and encourage retail and other buildings nearby. We are raising the bar in the entire area, also enhances the quality of life through physical and other improvements. Again, the Arverne working committee who has really got consensus building and creating a base line and a plan that we knew as we got toward the extremely complex land use and Environmental Review Process Eric mentioned a concern about this. We created some predictability. We had broad support. Again, the emphasis was not only on housing but opportunities to take advantage of tourism, entertainment, retail, recreation. How would we try to spur that?
So we concluded from the plan that there were a number of strengths for Arverne. There is an economic viability. The RP asked for people to consider two things the city would do in terms of incentives. We said we would be flexible with our land price and we said we were told it could not be carried into a project. The city (inaudible) this commitment directly, was prepared to commit some public resources to build the infrastructure that has been noted as the key obstacle going forward. Those things that allow us really to focus on what are the ideal program uses. Again, we look at not only the economic viability of housing and retail, but also making sure the whole thing is large-scale rooted.
Increasingly important issue as we try to survive a complex environmental review process making sure it was environmentally sound. Included green (inaudible) technology where we could make this model. Not insignificant is the fact that Borough President of Queens is a terrific leader to promote the projects. We really worked closely with all the elected officials to create another level of certainty that this project is prepared to move forward. So Arverne, not just housing, but job opportunities. It has become increasingly clear especially lately as people become more familiar with the expansive change at JFK that this is going to be an airport that doubles in capacity and we'll have tremendous new job opportunity and Arverne will have much more direction orientation to that tremendous hub in the immediate area.
It suffers a couple of things. Tremendous competition in terms of retail in Five Towns nearly to the east so you are limited in the amount of retail and investment you can attract. A lot of major retailers are already (inaudible). To the west, extremely low scale and high quality, but again fairly low population density to spur those other kinds of legal businesses. But again there are some limited opportunities especially in terms of hospitality, tourism and recreation. So we look to incorporate. Now not that we are looking for the city to be the next Seaside Florida but it is very infrequent that any place in America has the opportunity with single ownership of three hundred acres to properly plan for it. I think that's one of the very exciting both challenges and opportunities here to pick the right development team or teams who are prepared to work with us in a sense as to spear this plan. To build as high quality projects as great quality of life, but also to create something we haven't been very good at doing lately is just a model for large-scale urban redevelopment that is not only mixed use, mixed income, that provides all sorts of diversity, but really engages a discussion about high quality new construction of housing particular in terms of architecture and construction quality. But do it in a way that really can become a model and a showcase for the nation.
So I think there are places and I think especially Europe is way ahead of us where the public realm, both the streetscape, the architecture, the public investment by the private sector is something that is held in very high regard. New York has not been good at this. Our housing production is an extraordinary achievement even in the townhouse development under the new homes program, we build close to twenty thousand units. That was really programmed fifteen years ago and has kicked off almost in a crisis mode and I think a lot of successful new houses development does pay more attention to design and construction quality. I think we can do much better.
I think as you think about the city and extremely large assembling of buildings and places this has got to be a well thought through urban design and plan and people place, a pedestrian friendly place, but also something that really balances potential private space, creates land value, creates investment opportunity not only for developers, but for home buyers and creates situations where new community uses and destination uses make this a very special place. So we are excited about that. Yet this is a beach that has all sorts of issues we have got to deal with. We know enough from the ten or more years we have been working on efforts, large-scale development on our end to know there are some issues.
There is a plant that is growing on the only in limited places on the site but we are going to have to work very closely especially with the state and city. We want to talk about predictability. We have worked very closely with the state to get to this point where we have very much a working relationship.
Let me just wrap up the last couple of images. If I could leave you with one main thought it is that going forward both we as a city and the person driving the process, need to work closely with private sector and our elected officials to make sure there is a clear vision for the projects. We can't just roll out our standard development programs here. This is too critical and too important of an opportunity. So there has got to be somehow we could turn around the perception here that this is just a barren place surrounded by all sorts of levels of distress and poverty. That someone (inaudible) whether it is bringing artists in, whether it is bringing all sorts of professionals. Create some buzz. Create a physical place, images where people start to think of Arverne in a new way. It is something that has absolutely happened in Harlem; a place that has an international (inaudible) but now has an international buzz about it. Arverne can be that next place. I think physical form and early successes of projects both economic and also design successes are things that we couldn't do it without them.
Lastly, I think we will hopefully make an announcement on this, this summer. We are very encouraged by the response. The city is absolutely committed both financially, but also in terms of being a steward to try to connect the process to get this done. The community board has really been a leader and really set the framework for this working closely with the elected officials. Then the cumulative investment. This is the right time for this. Community driven planning, infrastructure upgrades we are making throughout the peninsula, parks and other things that are happening, but also the sort of transit you are hearing really set a very optimistic point across. So I thank everybody for their interest and support.
WOLLMAN: Executive director of the Architectural League of New York since 1985. She's responsible for the direction and management of the program, administer of the fund-raising activities of the Art Organization dedicated to the consideration of presentation who work in ideas in contemporary architecture, urbanism and design. There are a whole host of major projects which have come during her tenure, a whole host of books she has edited and written on the history, for instance, of the New York City Housing Authority. Rosalie has served as a grant review panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council of the Art, as and appeals panelist for New York State Council she serves on the Executive Advisory Council of the Parsons School of Design, Department of Architecture, as a member of the Architecture Advisory Committee of the New Museum for Women. Please join me in welcoming Rosalie Genevro.
ROSALIE GENEVRO: Thank you. The Architectural League is indeed directed by strong willed architects (inaudible). I am very grateful to have a chance to be here this morning and to add a voice on behalf of architects and the role and contributions they can make in thinking about the future of the city and development projects. It is perfect sequencing for me to talk right after Jame's presentation and I think you will find that I will simply be a voice along with him. I'd like to tell you briefly about the effort that the league has (inaudible) and a few observations and suggestions on the development process in general. I'll suggest there is a very important role for architectural -- for the developments and planning and building process. It is crucial in large-scale development that there will be a strong and shared public vision and a strong public client to pursue that vision and that real collaboration and openness among the agencies that have responsibility for different aspects of our physical world is critical for truly successful and moving forward with new development.
First, a little bit of background. The league is an organization of about twelve hundred architects and other people interested in architecture. The organization was founded in 1881 so New York Transit was pretty well established. Our work is to present programs, interesting work and ideas in architecture. The league is essentially an educational institution with a pattern, that is architecture in urbanism. We seem to keep architect matters interested in the discipline and informed about what is going on during New York and the United States and around the world. We seek to keep architects and others with responsibility to develop environment stimulated into thinking about important issues and about new ideas in building and making a city.
Over the last fifteen years the league has organized several design studies working with various New York City agencies and advocacy groups and topics including small scale infield housing design with HPD, school design that the Public Education Association and the possibilities for now architecture and parks related to the Department of Environmental Protection. In doing these projects we participated very consciously in a long and important tradition in New York City in which research and design speculation carried out by architects is provided a very significant steps forward in transforming familiar building approaches and types. This tradition has been particularly important in terms of housing in New York. In the 1870's and 1880's for example, the city was trying to figure out how to deal with the health problems and made some very minimal renovations. Architects dissatisfied with the really minimal changes in the lot (inaudible) came up with alternatives that greatly increased the amount of light that we have coming to apartments. A bit more recently in the 1920's the work of architects affiliated with the Regional Planning Association of America which was not the same was the Regional Plan. It is still around today. Architects such as Henry Wright thought outside the box, as we would say today and did work that resulted in new housing developments such as Sunnyside Gardens in Queens and Hillside Homes in the Bronx. These architects didn't accept the dominant real estate patterns. The development was done by respecting individual lots whether they were done one at a time or large tracks. They didn't even accept the idea that development had to accept the existing city blocks. They believed that better overall site plans were usable to open space and protected areas where children could play could be achieved on a larger scale. So they did away with unnecessary street and low rise buildings. Much closer to our own times the experiments and speculation of architects working with the Urban Development Corporation in nearly the 1970's lead to some new ideas that dealt with what had to become by them a primary source of dissatisfaction with much of the housing built on a tower in the parking lot. The UDC architects came up with a low rise, high density approach that attempted to deal with the too much of a good thing problem. They did it by bringing everybody down closer to the ground in low rise buildings. The significant thing about each of these moments of design speculation and rethinking is that in order to focus and propose alternatives to what had come to be seen as specific deficits in great development practice, none of them lead immediately to build one, but they did over time influence practice.
I suggest that today there are two specific approaches in contemporary housing development practicing in New York City and ultimately around the country. Those are the first the overwhelmingly strong reliance on the single and two family house with emphasis on private open space and complete disappearance of communal open space.
Secondly, the need to make housing much more environmentally sustainable. Early last year we had began conversations with (inaudible) team about the thinking together about designing issues that the department was subsidizing or otherwise making possible. We started out talking about any particular reference to Arverne. We had actually came to the idea they would work together on something. Something we initially thought it would precede a formal RP process, but for various reasons it wasn't possible and what we settled on doing was a (inaudible) process in which we invited four teams of architects to respond to the RP as kind of a friend of the court situation. Speculating through design with the problem and possibility presented by the site and offering up ideas that spotlighted the issues that three, four teams of architects thought were crucial. Three of the teams were made up of faculty at the architectural schools at Yale, Columbia and City College and the fourth is a (inaudible) interested in applying some of the ideas that evolve in Dutch design and development practice, too.
We asked the architects to be attentive to the wishes of the community as expressed. We also asked them to keep in mind the realities of building in New York. We also strongly encouraged them to really speculate to look forward on the environmental issues and to try to bring to bear on the site some of the significant advantages on stable housing design instruction in England and Europe. I would like to show you a preview of the few images from the projects. (inaudible) on exhibits at the Urban Center in midtown, the home of the Architectural League, later in the summer and they'll be fully documented and set in the context of information about development of natural history of the site. I hope you'll all come see the exhibition.
All right. Now what I am going to show you now, you are in for something completely different. I have to show them and talk a little about. This is a prototypical building design by the Yale team of architects which took extremely seriously the environmental issues on this. They proposed, I think I have a picture of the site. They proposed for the site plan eliminating almost every impervious surfaces on the site to deal with drainage issues and to deal with the fact that this area is in a flood plain. They have a dual network. Their infrastructure that sandwiches natural land space between some long streets. The green area which they refer to are actually remade as natural drainage areas and eliminate the need for other drainage on the site.
They also proposed installing a machine at one end of the site. A living machine is the creation of a (inaudible) and it is a natural system for dealing with black water. So they proposed the system in terms of the infrastructure which would eliminate most of the need for any, actually much investment at all in new infrastructure at the site. For building they also took the issues of energy and conservation. All the buildings are oriented so they face the south or southwest which is the best orientation for solar gain. The glass walls facing that direction have two fairly (inaudible) and the walls have integrated system in the walls for shading. Then the dots you see are kinds of solar films that actually can be transplanted into energy for the -- the dots being on the side generate energy on the site.
Then the other side of the building is made of a recycled composite material that again has, its creation is very energy conservative. So they emphasize both in the building and on the site, design the use of natural materials. (inaudible) in order to deal with flood conditions and parking under the building.
This is a building by the Columbia team of architects which I think literally is -- visual impacts the ideas of sitting lightly on the land. They too thought very seriously about the ecology of the site. It very well impacted what they were proposing. They used a lot of glass but both teams spent a lot of time thinking about manufacturing as opposed to site built construction and the proportions of the building, of course, make it possible to barge in some pre-made sections of the building to reduce construction cost and time on the site. The Columbia team which had three separate groups of architects working on three separate parts of the site took a strategy that on the eastern end of the site highlights towers, proposing fairly dense housing. In the middle of the site somewhat less dense housing. I am sorry I got the directions mixed up. That was the west side and then the east end. Less dense housing nearest to the Roosevelt buildings.
I don't have pictures of the other two schemes. The City College team proposed a very beautiful scoop of land up from the beach to the elevated subway line. (inaudible). The Dutch team focused on the entire regional area with a focus on Kennedy Airport. Proposed a very low density residential scheme for the Arverne site. It's got itself some high density buildings scattered around to take advantage of what they see. Arverne is a spectacular site as people have said earlier but I think it is easy to kind of forget how spectacular it is. People in New York know how since the 1830's from Manhattan and from Brooklyn to enjoy the natural beauty of the place and benefit from it. It is excitement cost for a joyful appreciation of what it is and never has a city had such a beautiful natural place. It calls for the exploitation of its natural advantages for the benefit of all the people in the city who wish to enjoy it.
So it is a site when both locally and citywide needs must be carefully balanced. Arverne is very complicated. It is a site that is bordering on one side of an array of public housing that in its concentration represents some of the worst and inexplicable public policy decisions one can imagine. It is a site because of the difficulty of transportation access to the peninsula. And it is a site that calls for well informed acceptance of what seems to me a very clear and pressing environmental responsibility. Yet, it remains an enormous opportunity. An opportunity that deserves first the investigation of possibilities. I think could benefit more from looking at it. Delaying is something happening there. It also demands a great vision on behalf of the public.
I would like to take this opportunity to suggest in that regard perhaps last with relation to Arverne and perhaps more to future development practice that we should think about a new approach for planning large-scale development and that is in the public sector I think should be established in specific visions as what kind of places it wants to create before the market is asked to come in to pursue those specific goals. The most successful I think are the ones that recent examples of real creations and transformation of specific places in New York and I would suggest those are Battery Park City and Times Square and I think a product of very specifically publicly generated plans and ideas about the quality of the place to be created.
Creating such a vision can be achieved in several ways. I think this is pre-market. By asking a variety of architects and planners to propose competing visions which are then debated and chosen among. Or by direct admission by the city planners and architects to create such a plan. Again, this should happen before significant development so that all the community's needs mentioned by the other speakers, pools, transportation, recreation, are considered as part of the visionary core. I think this in no way is an anti market argument, but really is the contrary. It is not the job of the market to determine in large-scale, large development areas what the place should be but rather it is the job of the public sector to determine that and then for the market to do what it does best which is to pursue its own goals in filling in and finds a predictable environment.
My last point is one that's an obvious one. That's is to say the creation of places requires the enthusiastic cooperation of all the relevant government agencies. Creating a great new place in Arverne requires the cooperation not only of HPD but also the Department of Environmental Protection, transportation, parks and the Board of ED. I want to end by encouraging us all to an openness to the new, not to the new simply for the sake of new, but there are ideas in the world of building and urban development and a lot of work being done particularly on environmentally sustainable housing plan, the community planning and live work communities and I think using all the talent available in the city we can really create some stunning communities. Thank you.
WOLLMAN: I would like to take this opportunity to welcome State Senator Malcolm Smith to the Institute and to the conference. I would like to last say the one presentation we are were not successful in getting here today is a wonderful presentation from the New York City Housing Authority of a study they've done about infield issues and changes to some of the housing projects you heard mentioned here in the past hour and a half. Sharon Ebert is the director of that particular particular piece of work and we'll publish that along with the other elements of the material that you heard on these three days.
To close this session just before the break it gives me pleasure to welcome Jonathan Gaska, who is the District Manager for Community Board 14. Jonathan has served in this capacity for a long time and probably knows every stretch of the world that Community Board 14 is concerned with. He has been there sing November of 1989. Having a hard task last year before that in New York City Comptroller Harrison Golden, for who he served for five years proceeding that. A member of the American Planning Association and the Executive Board of the (inaudible) Club of the Rockaways and someone who was a recipient of an (inaudible) public policy Queens College, part of the City University of New York. Please join me in welcoming Jonathan Gaska.
JONATHAN GASKA: I want to thank Henry for inviting me. It is good to be invited anywhere. Henry's staff was very efficient. They had asked me if I needed any slides or film and I said I don't have that but if they wanted me to I could bring slides from a vacation to Orlando that I had with my family but they respectfully declined but the offer still stands at any other presentation. My children are very cute.
Before I start what I would like to do is really thank a couple of people and organizations. As you heard over the last few hours, Rockaway once was a great spot and we believe it can be but in between when it was great and now, city government has, and government in general has done a lot of things to us instead of for us over the years. Claire Shulman certainly has been if not a singular biggest advocate to the City of New York, she certainly has been someone who would ask what do you want. What is it that you need? Whatever your community wants and that's very refreshing. Why we are here today was a collaborative effort of a lot of people in government and elected officials once again said to the board, look, you represent the board the most part, we'll support you and that's refreshing. And we would like to thank HPD and I don't think you know if you would ask me a few years ago those words would never come out of any mouth, or anybody on the Community Board. But they basically have said the same thing; what is it the community wants. What do you think you need? We'll help you. I'll get into that a little. That certainly is refreshing because my job if you know how a districts manager is, is someone who deals with city agencies every single day and that is certainly the exception and not the rule in city government to have that kind of level of cooperation so hopefully the new improved HPD will be an example for all the other city agencies.
I am going to go over a few things you heard. I'll do it quickly because I think they need to be repeated. What we are dealing with in Rockaway then I'll go onto what our vision is and what we would like to see. The population of Community Board 14 has remained relatively static over the last few decades. Our population has been between about a hundred and a hundred and ten thousand persons. The only thing that has changed in the last two decades has been a twenty-five percent increase in the percentage of black and Latino persons. Of that twenty-five percent there has been a great influx of indo-caribbean persons and they tend to be white collar, have very good jobs and tend to be homeowners. Thus, when you heard about somebody spoke about all the two family housing that's being built, that's basically the demographic of the folks buying here; people who make a good living. They have invested interest in our community. That's really our goal all along.
Community Board 14 is really like a micro cosmo of the City of New York. We have million dollar homes on the west end of the district but we also have over five thousand units of public housing on the east end. We also have working and middle class communities mixed in throughout the districts. The socio-economic statistics in our districts are daunting. Besides over five thousand units of public housing we have about twenty-seven percent of our population on some type of public assistance. That's about one in for. That statistic about four our five years ago was close to thirty-five percent. So that is going in the right direction. Our unemployment rate unfortunately is three times the borough average and our youth unemployment rate is about thirty percent. We also have sixty percent of the borough's health related facilities. In fact we have over twenty adult and nursing homes in our district plus numerous rehab centers. So it is something very -- it is a tough road to hold to sell the community.
Jim did a fabulous job. It is all kinds of cut to the chase. The Rockaways until the end of the Korean War was a favorite summer vacation destination for working and middle class families. Up until the early sixties the site was the site of hundreds of the summer bungalows and we spoke about in the late 1800's it is was a spot for the wealthy to vacation. As roads, transportation improved if made vacationing in other areas less expensive and the areas started to fall out of favor. Owners of the bungalows could not rents to vacationers and this really was the beginning of the end for that area. As Jim had said because of urban renewal in other areas before it got to the Rockaways people were displaced. The City of New York was faced with an affordable housing shortage and was more than happy to send the homeless to live in these bungalows. Property owners stopped maintaining their property, crime and other things followed which lead then Mayor John Lindsey to declare this area an urban renewal area and basically it has been vacant to this day.
After the failed (inaudible) plan for seventy five hundred units of middle and high rise apartments which by the way Jim did mention had narrow support of the communities and was a very contentious issue. Once, because of the failing real estate market it was announced that developers pulled out and I might add there wasn't a wet eye in the community when this was announced. In fact some people were seen dancing in the streets. The board approached the city the Borough President and asked them to higher a consultant for creative planning. All through when you higher a consultant they tell you what you want to hear. We did not want that. We wanted ours to exorcise some of the ghosts of the old urban renewal area which were the Grant Hotels the amusement parks, the restaurants. People in the community said, well why can't it be that way again. Let's focus on bringing Marriot. We had been told by experts that would happen but you know there is a sense in the community that it still could. So when we hired the consultant we wanted to make sure that consultant, in fact, went out to those grand builders of hotels and asked them would you come. So we wanted to basically focus on what would be successful now. Get rid of the things that people who remember fifty years ago once was. So we had to exorcise some of those ghosts.
We wanted to devise a market tested development strategy. We also wanted a plan that would be acceptable to most people who lived in our district that would provide jobs, generate economic development areas in the adjacent distressed areas and bring a sense of community to an area that has been vacant for over thirty years. Clearly a tall order for a consultant but something we charged them. The city along with working group and other elected officials hired the firm of HRA to do this. We were very careful to be as inclusive as possible in devising a strategy. We held numerous public hearings with the consultant in different neighborhoods. We went into virtually every different distinct neighborhood that we can round up enough people and get in a presentation and solicited what they thought would do well there. What they would like to see. What their vision was. We did this over a two year period. We invited people of all interests and walks of life to spend a half of day to work together and kind of come up with an outline of what would work and what we would like to see. We also solicited written comments from our residents who are enable to attend these meetings. We truly wanted to get input. We didn't want anyone to say they didn't have a chance to get their two cents in. Most reasonable people would say that was the case. After compiling all this information we set out to develop a plan that the community felt it had a role in and that would work. Often and I guess the last failed plan in Arverne was the plan people didn't think would work, at least whatever the population or perhaps forty-eight percent of those and didn't feel they had a role. We wanted to change that and HPD surprisingly enough, agreed to that fact. As Jim said we need to work with the community. You want the community to feel it had a part. That's perhaps the wave of the future with government working with communities.
So we got all this information and we compiled it. HRA then looked at all the development plans for the area and contacted various leaders in the hotel industry, recreation, golf, entertainment, retail, housing and asked them what they think would work there and most importantly would they come. We kind of didn't wants to do build it and they'll come. We wanted to know first would they come. We really wanted this project to be a success. A draft was prepared. We held some more meetings, public hearings and the result really is outlined the (inaudible) which you all know about.
What we need and what we would like to see. The Rockaways clearly needs to bring up its median income significantly. It is a site still of great poverty. It is a site that as I discussed in the beginning that we have the public housing which you know thanks to our elected officials is changing the mix a little and also improving the infrastructure. It is going to be nicer to look at and the people will feel safer. They are also doing job training as a component of that and that's something important too because as you heard before jobs is a premium. We need to bring in new residents with good jobs who will have an invested interest in the success of this project but most importantly the success of our communities. We need voters who City Hall will pay attention to. We believe and I think we are right, that one of the reasons we haven't been able to get the money invested like in Jamaica or College Point or 42nd Street or other places is because you know one thing that elected officials do and it is a fact of life and to large government bodies, is they look at votes. We have a small population and they don't all necessarily vote. So we need to bring up people who have vested interests by buying a house, who care about the schools, who care about the neighborhoods, who will come to the meetings. Pride of ownership. That is something that we tried to hammer home to HPD. I think we are getting there.
We also need jobs. I spoke about that. Full term and short terms jobs. Hundreds of construction jobs will be available when this project starts to build as well as permanent retail service jobs hopefully dozens of full time and seasonal recreational jobs. It is also believed that if successful this project will spur additional economic development in the adjacent Rockaway and Broad Channel communities creating more jobs and raising property values on the east end of the peninsula. Reverend Flake in fact said before that's what it is all about. Raising property value. We have working class communities that really have not benefitted from the rise in property values in the rest of the city and certainly in the Borough of Queens. We believe this project will do that. Clearly most people believe the site especially, you heard about that numerous times. It has a lot of challenges and it is great for infrastructure, improved transportation, it is adjacent to the ocean so always the issue of the beach erosion, that's something that we struggle with. It is also as you all know adjacent to the ocean. This seaside location is a great marketing plus. You heard that today and we believe something good has got to happen at a place that's four miles away from Kennedy Airport. Adjacent to Nassau Count. In fact, Rockaway at one time was part of Nassau County. And the Five Towns is one of the wealthiest areas in the city. We believe if this site is developed correctly can not only draw on residents in the city but also those who live in western Long Island. They come here to live or shop or maybe vacation. We'll take the money however you want to do it as long as it is. You want to stay for a few days, that's fine. You want to buy a vacation house, that's great. If you want to shop during the day and go to the beach that's great, too. That's what we are looking for. A site that needs to be developed and some people spoke about that.
What we don't want is rows of attached boxes. The city up until recently, that's and Jimmy eluded to that had a problem just building rows and rows of boxes. We don't want that there. We don't want he Elmhurst and Elmhurst is not a bad place to live in. In fact, I owned a house in Elmhurst. We want kind of what like Jim showed before. Nice houses with nice colors. We want a place that's going to create a destination community. We want a place people will want to live, will be bidding the prices of the houses higher than the asking price. We want a great place in Arverne. What we don't want in the city as I said is the boxes. We want to see one and two family houses. We want something to stay with the residential character of our community.
There are important things to this community. Environment is very important. We are very sensitive to that. Storms scare us. Something coming up from the southeast that we are concerned about. It wasn't very long ago that Audrey and I and Joanne were in my jeep on the boardwalk when we had those bad nor'easterners and the waves literally were hitting the boardwalk and hitting the car. We got a little nervous. So we realize mother nature is very important; can be very powerful.
However there has got to be that delicate balance. We want to see parks in this. We want to see beautiful parks. We clearly need a school. Schools in Rockaway although have been getting better, is an issue and is a problem. Schools unfortunately aren't so great and although with the new superintendent and new board they are moving in the right direction and scores have been going up and that is a negative and hopefully that will soon be a positive. So we need schools for the sites as well and that's very important.
One thing this community has been wanting for probably over a decade is a recreation center. That is something that is a key component of this project for us. A place where not only the existing residents can go but the new residents. Make it more attractive to everybody. Our vision included a recreation center that will have a swimming pool, basketball courts, fields around it and luckily for us in Arverne there is plenty of city land so acquisition costs won't be an issue. But that's something very important to us and we believe is very important to the success of this project. The board also believes there is an opportunity for those with more disposable income to buy summer or weekend vacation homes. The Hamptons has become too expensive and is certainly less successful in Arverne. We have a beautiful beach that is a short subway ride or car ride away. It sure beats the three hour bus ride that I guess some of you take and you have heard about. We believe there is a vacation opportunity to be considered here and we think we need to discuss that further. My dad -- his dad was my grandfather (inaudible) on a potato and cabbage farm and he, about a decade ago bought a piece of property. When he retired he was going to build a house out there. He bought it about an acre for about ten thousand dollars an he was offered over a hundred thousand dollars for it. What is happening out in north walk is because you can't buy in the south in the Hamptons. They are all about building those grand luxury homes on the north. So clearly is an opportunity for people who would like to spend a week or weekend on the beach. Maybe after that we'll get the Starbucks that I love so I can get my frapaccino in Rockaway instead of driving up to Howard Beach. One of the little things I want. There has got to be something in it for me.
The center portion of the site from around Beach 56th Street to around 40th Street going east is an ideal location for recreational opportunity. Golf course, golf related activities, perhaps a sports complex, baseball, soccer, volley ball and other sports. So it is a great site for that and that's something we are requesting. The far eastern end from Beach 40th to Beach 32nd Street is one of the few easily accessible locations to the site. It is about a mile away from the Nassau Expressway which was finished a few years ago which would be an ideal location for a hotel, an outlet mall, a retail shop or a movie theater complex. It would have minimal impact on residential neighborhoods. There is some few houses facing it but would be a good spot to bring people in to shop and enjoy what Rockaway has to offer. Clearly Arverne will never be the great vacation destination it was seventy-five years ago and I am not so sure the community would want that either.
However, with careful planning vision and the will from government to make this project succeed we believe it can and will be a great price to once again visit, live year round or just for a few weeks. Thank you very much.
WOLLMAN: I welcome all of you to an exactly thirteen minute break. So we asked Frank Braconi. Frank is Executive Director of the Housing and Planning Council. I am not sure we could invite anyone else to pick with us about the implications of much of what we have heard over the past couple of sessions.
Liz Sulik is the President of the Chamber of Commerce of the Rockaways. I would like to ask her and Vincent Riso if they would not mind sitting up here at the end of the case study part three of this mornings panel. Liz is an active member of the Hundred Precinct Community Council. See has participated in the organization of the annual community cruises, fireworks fund-raising Valentine's Day dinner dances, Breakfast with Santa and National Lights Out Against Crime. Sort of all around woman as I think you can see by the variety of activities. As a member of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce she organizes the annual bravest of finest awards luncheon, Rockaway activity book publications and beautification award reception. She was reelected President of the Rockaway Chamber September of 2000. Please join me in welcoming Liz Sulik.
LIZ SULIK: Good afternoon. One of the benefits speaking early on in the day is that everything you are going to say hasn't yet been said by someone else. So in the interest of remedy everything really that I was doing I basically tore up everything I was going to say because it has been said. That was in one way rather distressing but in another way I found it rather comforting. For the first time I think in many, many years we all seem to be on the same page. For so long we had the city coming in and telling us what we should do. We had a fashion in the Rockaway community. Another one saying what they wanted. And another in the east and in the west and down in the middle and the environmentalist on the other hand and the progressive people on another, all were speaking from different pages. So for me it was rather rewarding this morning to sit and listen to so many people and as I did just kind of pick them off my list of important things. Not in my list personally, but as President of the Chamber as my husband can vouch for I am never home. I am running around the community to various civic meetings and speaking with different people almost all the time and traveling. I take notes and listen carefully to what goes on. I can honestly say that many of the things and I don't think I ever really expected that I would stand here and say this, but I was against the proposed housing in Arverne so many years ago. Now, that the plans that seem to be that we have all seen and the homes and the way in which the city is going about it this time makes me much more hopeful than I have been in many, many years.
I've been a resident of the Rockaways for thirty-two years. I moved to New York from the state of Minnesota and visited friends in Rockaway who had just rented an apartment there. I think it was two months after my first visit to Rockaway that I moved. I intend to stay there forever. It is a wonderful beautiful extraordinary place to be. Then I came there because of the beach. I've remained there all these years because of the beach. My friends do as well. The only problem and maybe down side is that my children will never leave home because of the beach either. I am very popular during the summer. It is a very popular thing to be my friend because my guest room is occupied, my basement, my driveway overflows with visitors. In the winter they are not so interested in me, but come the summer everybody wants to come to the beach. Another really, well I could quote some statistics not that you don't already know them. America's top tourist destination which configures over six hundred and forty billion dollars to the U.S. economy which is eighty-five percent of all U.S. revenues annually is the beach and the waterfront. Each year approximately a hundred and eighty million Americans spend seventy-five billion dollars on visits to the ocean, gulf and inland beaches. Our beaches, our environment in the Rockaways is definitely our most valuable asset.
One of the other benefits to be becoming President of the Chamber of Commerce is that I had access to some magnificent archives. For years stemming back to 1930 something the Chamber of Commerce used to do these wonderful Rockaway reviews. As a matter of fact I told Peter Magnani before, I found a picture with him in one of them from many years ago but I still recognize him so that was -- this pretty well chronicled the development and different plans that the Rockaways have had over the years. It surely chronicles the building of the housing projects and so many other things but this one in 1958 is particularly near and dear to my heart. In the editorial which begins apparently in 1950, the late 1950's there was a program in the Rockaways called the Slum Clearance Program which was attempting, I believe, to replace the buildings that had been let go and had now become dangerous for fire by more stable and in many times high rise buildings. So the Chamber has taken a position here. It does not agree with the Slum Clearance Committee officials who refused to set aside areas in the title one project for hotels, motels or cabana club facilities. We have always felt and we are still of this opinion, that such a type of development in a slum clearance project would be a great asset to our community. It would be too bad if all our living facilities planned for the future are of such a type as to only accommodate all year residents. We have the Atlantic Ocean to the south, Jamaica Bay to the north. The most wonderful beach of white sand, a large boardwalk and many other facilities to attract millions and millions of visitors to our area during the summer. This is a type of trade and business that should be developed in an area with all the facilities for a great seashore resort. While all year population is an important factor there must be some consideration even to those who want to visit our area for a days outing or a vacation of a week or month or season. Also many years later. This is still a very important factor and one which basically I didn't hear covered today.
As I mentioned, I do some traveling and one of my pet projects over the years has become beach replenishment issues. So in May, attended a conference in Washington DC and most recently spent a couple of days with assembly woman (inaudible) up in Albany on kind of a fact finding and learning mission and (inaudible) this year is very proud of the fact that for the first time ever, their new study of a reformulation study of our beachfront is going to go from inlet to inlet which for the first time they said they've never done that before. All the studies have just been of a particular area or a particular hot spot. This year for the first time they are going to actually commence a study and the word study strikes fear into Rockaway resident's hearts who have been studied to death, but they are going to for the first time actually now take the entire beach into consideration. I would urge the city planners to do the same thing when planning for Arverne and when considering proposals for Arverne. We are more than just Arverne. We are more than just the east end or the west end. We have businesses that must continue that are struggling now. We have oceanfront areas on the boardwalk that are taken up, actually old hotels that once stood in grandeur, now are adult homes. I am one of those people that likes -- that I take advantage of the oceanfront and it is about the only exercise I get every day. I go for like a seven mile walk every morning on the Atlantic Ocean and we'll go up on the boardwalk from time to time and it is pretty distressing to see valuable boardwalk area used by people who are not being served correctly and I don't want to be politically incorrect here but it is a shame when the adult homes that exist in the Rockaways and I realize there is a need to serve. We under serve the people who live in them. Walk down our streets they are panhandling, sitting in doorways. The end of the A line for some reason seems to be the way that homeless people come and live on our boardwalks. This does not enhance our businesses. I think perhaps tied into this tourism and summer resort concept is the fact that years ago our businesses didn't do so well in the winter time, but in the summer time they more than made up for it. I think we have to consider a little of what happened in the past and learn from it.
Almost every dignitary that comes to the Rockaways, as a guest speaker at one of our civic associations or at a dinner dance or whatever, has a memory of something they did in Rockaway. They'll talk about their grandparents having a bungalow there. We are all connected to Rockaway seeing so many people. And as the generations go on this connection is going to continue but unfortunately the connections-- there probably will be a gap in the generation of connections. Businesses hesitate to come into the Rockaways because they know we are a very mobile population and also the discount stores. We are a community of mom and pop business operations and this is perhaps the most common theme that runs through with the Chamber of Commerce is that they can't sustain themselves. The rents are high. The landlords charge enormous incredible rents in many cases for property that has not been improved.
I urge the city planners when they sit down and they know they are working with the community for the first time in a long time and that's wonderful. But to consider and take a look at the entire peninsula, not just Arverne. Arverne is a wonderful opportunity and there is nobody that wants it to be more successful than the residents of the Rockaways themselves, but we have got to consider what is already there. The residents who already live there. The businesses who are already having difficulty making ends meet. We have absolutely got to take a look at it from inlet to inlet. The word is getting out that Rockaway is -- this January there was a marvelous article published in Off Shore magazine which is a boating, recreational boating magazine which highlighted the wonderful benefits of Jamaica Bay which although I know that Arverne by the sea, is by the sea, Jamaica Bay in and of itself is a wonderful resource which has to be considered as well. We have, there is another book being published now the end of June entitled The Best of New York. The publishers came out to the Rockaways and were absolutely astounded that the Rockaways existed. The word is getting out. We are running festivals. We know by virtue of the fact that we do little mini impact studies after these festivals that our local businesses and commercial areas definitely see an impact for that day. The sales triple and quadruple and lines go down the block when we bring people in.
I think in addition to the housing we have got to consider the tourism aspect of the Rockaways not just to go back to the way we were because that doesn't work all the time but surely to move forward from where we were using the mistakes of the past and slip ups and perhaps the little breaks in continuity to move forward and use that. Ferry service for instance. People can't get to us. A lot of people question the soundness of such a high density housing when we have no hurricane evacuation plan. It is difficult for us to get from one end of the peninsula to the other. It is -- a lot of people question it. I know some of these issues have been addressed and I am not going to go into all that again but I think the letter that got me here in the first place which probably says it more distinctly than I have just now because this is totally winging it here, is the following:
"For the past forty years or more there has been a distinct lack of vision for the entire peninsula. We are a very unique waterfront community bordered by Jamaica Bay and the Atlantic Ocean with miles and miles of beaches coupled with untapped recreational opportunity in Jamaica Bay. Yet neither the City of New York for the County of Queens has focused on this natural asset for many, many years. It makes no sense that the City of New York should lose its valuable tourism revenue that could and should be derived from keeping our own New York City residents and their dollars close at hand. Why should our own residents be forced to flee to the Jersey Shore, the Hamptons or Jones Beach when such a magnificent waterfront area lies at their own back door. A general consensus has been reached many times over throughout the peninsula among the civic associations, cultural organizations and business associations that Rockaway's future lies in its ability to promote and sustain beachfront tourism yet there is no question that there is a demand for improved housing to build vacant land and improve the vastly inadequate and antiquated housing now in existence. But housing alone does not represent our future. History has proven again and again, that without thoughts as to a master plan or a vision for the future of the entire peninsula, housing does little for us as a whole community without much needed improvement in transportation and education. Going hand in hand with housing is part of a master plan. The Rockaway peninsula will not prosper and thrive as it should as a whole community."
I thank you very much for hearing me as a regular person. Thank you. Good afternoon.
WOLLMAN: Thank you very much. You will remember a slide that Jim began almost at the very beginning with an old New York vision which in a way picks off some of the same things Liz has talked about today. To end this case study it gives me great pleasure to introduce Vincent L. Riso. For almost a century up to four generations the Briarwood Organization has been a prolific and popular builder of single, two and three family homes in the city of New York. Homes in Arverne exemplifies the type of construction and community involvement of the organization.
Phase one which consists of forty homes is sold out. Phase two which consists of sixty homes is started this spring. It is expected today to be sold out by years end. Vincent Riso is past president and founding member of the Queens County Builders and Contractors Association, a trained organization that represents the Queens construction industry. He is presently a member of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection Commissioners Industry Advisory Cabinet representing Queens County Builders and Contractors Association, the Association of Builders and Owners of Greater New York, and the Building Industry Association of the City of New York. Vincent is a Director of the New York City Partnership and Chamber of Commerce and a Vice President and board member of the Citizen's Housing and Planning Council. Please join me in welcoming Vincent Riso.
VINCENT RISO: I come before you this morning as a resident of the Rockaways. During the summers of the fifties I was a resident beach bum and I contributed to the economy of the Rockaways in the local bars. That makes me feel old, but the participating in HPD's endless RFP's since the eighties really has taken its toll on my age. The Briarwood Organization was chosen by HPD to develop one hundred homes, two hundred housing units at Waters Edge in the Rockaways. We are currently completing these homes right off Rockaway Beach Boulevard and the Atlantic Ocean between Beach 59th and Beach 62nd Street.
Contrary to when Jim was introduced this is not his latest challenge. I believe the genesis of this revival here in Arverne started over ten years ago. Maybe two administrations ago, six commissioners ago with Jim and his theme working toward today. I think we have to thank Jim and the HPD people who have worked very hard to bring this about. Until recently construction of affordable housing in the Rockaways was almost nonexistent. I define affordable housing as that housing available to families with income of up to a hundred and fifty thousand dollars.
In the early 1880's the Rockaways, then accessible only by private boat began gaining its reputation as the playground for the wealthy New York families who came to enjoy the ocean breezes and escape the city. In 1882 a New York City attorney and developer (inaudible) began the work for a new resort that would be the grandest in the Rockaways. He would eventually build a neighborhood of villas and a hotel on the west side of East 69th Street as part of his resort. By the late 19th century Arverne was a vibrant part of the Rockaway Beach with its resort hotels, summer villas, restaurants, band shows and pavilions. Arverne by the sea became an upscale beachfront community much like Bell Harbor in Neponsit with oceanfront housing ranging from a hundred and six thousand to six hundred and thirty-seven thousand dollars in today's dollars.
However, since the passing of the gilded age of the turn of the 20th century, Arverne's history has been one of faded glory and unrealized dreams. The ocean beaches in the Rockaways are among the best in the world. Education, jobs and transportation are its major limiting factors. Is there a housing market in the Rockaways? Until a year ago I had some serious doubts about this emerging market. Our partners HPD and Chase Manhattan Bank shared these concerns. However, as homes took shape our then reluctant buyers came forth in phase one, the first forty homes were sold. Many of our buyers came from the public housing that Reverend Flake spoke about earlier. Many are city employees and local hospital employees. We assisted these homeowners in forming block associations. Interest in our homes wasn't the problem. We had plenty of interest, plenty of lookers. Unlike marketing efforts that the Briarwood Organization undertook in other affordable housing sites throughout the city which move along quickly all of them have moved along extremely quickly. Arverne sales required intense marketing efforts to qualify many of our buyers who had major credit card debt and other credit problems. The credit card plastic had groomed, you know, a good deal of the American buying public.
Most of our buyers wouldn't be addressed by lenders as sub-prime buyers. Nevertheless with the assistance of Chase we have successfully been able to qualify most of these families. A lottery was held last month at the site. Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer officiated along with Jonathan Gaska of Community Board 14 and Liz Sulik of the Rockaway Chamber of Commerce. Over four hundred applicants were picked for an opportunity of purchasing a home. Public officials and community organizations are a vital asset to the Rockaways renaissance. Their input has helped make our project a success. The Rockaways potential under ideal private sector conditions is unlimited. The development could be designated shortly by HPD for the Arverne by the sea (inaudible). We'll have an opportunity to build many residential units of one and two and middle rise dwellings. A comprehensive development represents an impressive, incredible, unique opportunity not only to bring affordable housing to Queens but to create a world class community in a place that has suffered great urban blight. This is far more than just a building project but rather and opportunity to have a lasting legacy for the Arverne neighborhood by building a community that is environmentally friendly, uses sustainable architecture and returns the streets back to pedestrians.
The designated developer will have the opportunity to develop along with -- excuse me -- to develop and along with local retail facilities a supermarket and community facility uses along with an elementary school which will be required by the new families of the Arverne community. Other amenities such as a community center and athletic field will ad to the community appeal. Jim earlier mentioned the old steel pier that graced Arverne. Perhaps that could be brought back. I believe the dream of providing a beautiful, livable community on a previously neglected beachfront resource is a challenge. A challenge that will be met in the future. Thank you.
WOLLMAN: Before closing, it would be irresponsible of me not to thank Ellen Posner for all her efforts of the coordinator of this conference and all the Institute's conferences. So I want to do that. I am also not certain whether Barry Hersh is still in the room. Barry is the Associate Director of the Institute and in search for our certificate program of the best faculty in New York City. We have a growing certificate program in real estate. It is unique. It is unlike our nearest competitors, God won't mention who exactly that is even with frank Braconi here next. But we really believe that we are on the verge of doing something new and unique within a world academic real estate education and Barry runs that. For those of you in the audience interested in teaching with the qualifications of your lives devoted to the industry, I think you have to have forty years in before Barry talks to you. No, I am teasing. But we cordially invite you to submit your resume if you are interested or speak with Barry on the phone at the Institute's office.
Finally, I hope all of you are on our mailing list. We'll be mailing out in probably a month the beginning sequence of programs for next year. We also want all of you to be able to receive a copy of the issue of Properties as will be devoted to the conference and to Queens so if you are here other than by having received on invitation please have leave your business card out on the front desk.
Finally, I guess I don't know if we have to say Doctor Frank Braconi yet, but it is coming soon if it is not now. Frank Braconi is Executive Director of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council. A nonprofit policy research organization concerned with the physical and economic development of the city. He has written numerous reports and articles dealing with housing community development in the urban environment. He teaches urban economics at our unmentionable real estate institute rival, housing economics at Hunter College. He holds a Master's Degree in economics from NYU and is completing his doctoral studies at the City University Graduate Center, a wise choice. For those of you who are not members, I am not sure exactly what the word is of the Citizens Housing and Planning Council you do not receive on a regular basis then, the newsletter of the Citizens Housing and Planning council which Frank directs and which you can not know what goes on in New York City without reading that newsletter. I am envious of it. I wish we published something as good as that. We are going to try but for the moment Frank Braconi does it. Please join me in welcoming Frank Braconi.
FRANK BRACONI: Thanks very much. As you can see I am straddled that NYU CUNY in so many ways I think I should be (inaudible) by now. One other thing I noticed that many of us hearing about it evokes a lot of memories for all of us. I have one too, so let me establish my credentials. When I was very young in the early sixties my uncle was a contractor who had the contract for the bath houses at Rockaway. Some of my earliest memories in life were my uncle telling me and my cousin, "Come on, I am going to the beach," because he was going to check out his job. We would get a free ride from him. I remember that Arverne in the vast expansions of empty land there. Evidentially, maybe you and some others here will try to finally fill in that land that I remember thirty years ago; forty.
Anyhow, exaggeration. In any case I was asked to talk about the role of Queens and summarize what we heard today and in the previous sessions. The role of Queens is satisfying the city's need for middle class housing. I want to give you a slightly different take on that issue than you heard before. By doing so I want to start with the premise that New York housing isn't extremely unaffordable. Now, why do I say that? Well, there are two factors that count for the majority of housing price variations among cities and regions. Those two factors are the size of the metropolitan area and its per capita income. That's what drives housing cost. In New York City we are the largest city clearly in the country and we are the richest city in the country. So it is not surprising. Theory says and research shows that we should have relatively high housing costs. If you don't believe that theory, try buying a house in a nice neighborhood of San Francisco or Boston or Los Angeles. Now, that's not to say there are some segments of our population that have income issues and can't afford this market, but overall the market is not out of line for what it should be, given the city's size and wealth.
Families earning sixty thousand -- between sixty thousand and a hundred thousand dollars a year. This is median housing costs in 1995. Again, middle class, sixty thousand, to a hundred thousand dollars in income. The median housing cost in New York City was nine hundred and fifty-five dollars a month. In Dallas, nine hundred and eighty-seven dollars a month. In Chicago, one thousand, thirty-three dollars a month. That may surprise many of you, but that's data from American Housing surveys for those cities. Now does that mean everything is okay? No it is not.
Problem is, New York's housing stock is seriously obsolete and antiquated relative to other places. Let me give you an example just as comparative to the cities as I just mentioned. In Chicago for median home income price it has a hundred and eighty square feet more than we do in New York. In Dallas, two hundred and thirty square feet more. That's essentially another bedroom. You can see the quality difference even more dramatically in terms of amenities. Dishwasher is an issue my wife harps on quite a bit. That median household in New York. Sixty-nine percent in the New York metropolitan area have dishwashers. In Chicago seventy-four percent and in Dallas ninety-five percent.
How about two baths? I'll work back the other way. Middle class households in Dallas, eighty-six percent live in units with two or more bathrooms. In Chicago fifty percent. In New York, thirty-seven percent. That means New Yorkers are the only people accustomed to standing in line in their own homes. Maybe even more importantly is the neighborhood quality in which the housing is located. You have to ask questions about the quality of our neighborhood in the city. Do you have a shady tree to read a book under on a summer day? Do your kids get educated when they are sent to school? Do you have a place to park your car that is in the same congressional district as your house? Do you have an opportunity to buy a home and build wealth for your family? These are things that middle class people want and expect. Now that's important simply to provide a list for the high quality of life. But it is also important if we want our economy to grow and prosper. Because economic competition in the 21st Century between cities is no longer on the basis of geographic advantage as it once was. Spectacular harbor is less as important, maybe not important at all anymore. The Erie Canal is shut down. A tourist attraction now. The fact that we are one day closer to London on the great circle sailing routes is irrelevant to New York today.
What cities to compete on in the 21st Century is intellectual capital. Intellectual capital of that population. Give you a little recent academics study on that. (inaudible) did a study of what determines the rate of growth. He found that between 1940 and 1986 the single largest variable that determined the relevant growth of cities was the proportion of people and their population that had a high school degree as of the 1940's. It is remarkable. Between 1970 and 1996 the biggest, most important variable was the proportion of the population that had a college degree. That is what determines whether a city prospers or doesn't. So what we are essentially competing with other places, whether it is London, Paris, Tokyo, Atlanta, Washington, etcetera, we are competing for smart motivated innovative people who want to live here and we're going to attract them by the quality of life we offer in our neighborhood.
So you have to ask can we survive in comfortable modern housing in attractive lively neighborhoods? I think that's where Queens comes in serving the regional needs and the city's needs. Now think of that as a base line that Queens has twenty-five percent of the city's housing units overall. But it has a disproportionate share of the middle income housing. For instance, thirty-four percent of the city's post war housing in Queens, forty-three percent of it is one and two family homes and thirty-eight percent of it is owner occupied units. It is also -- one things that makes me very proud to be a Queens resident is I am of that ownership as well. Thirty-nine percent of the African American homeowners in this city live in Queens. Sixty-five percent of it is Asian homeowners. In fact, I had an interesting incident not long ago where I was interviewing a young Korean graduate student for a position in my organization and I asked him where he lived. He said he lived in Manhattan but he hoped to move to Flushing someday. I have to tell you that was music to my ears. That truly is the future of Queens. As far as the quality of the neighborhood some of the most beautiful in the city are located in the borough. Forest Hills, Jackson Heights. Very easy to name more.
Truthfully, I don't think I was invited here for boosterism of the borough. More importantly talk about some of the challenges or threats that the borough faces and what we have to do in the coming decade. One problem I see which aside from the beautiful neighborhoods as I just mentioned, truth, is many of the neighborhoods in Queens were built hodgepodge for industrial working class in the early decades of the 20th Century. They essentially no longer meet the standard of middle class housing in the early 21st Century. Give you one tiny example. I don't have an electrical outlet in my bathroom. Can you imagine that? Try to blow dry your hair or use any kind of electrical appliance. It was built before people imagined having electrical appliances in a bathroom. So the question is and that's part of the internet age, believe it or not.
So how do we modernize and redevelop those neighborhoods to higher standards of amenity and urban design? Truthfully, I think to that question the city's political culture has been simply unable to deal with it. 2000 census as we read in the newspaper recently found three hundred and seventy thousand previously unknown housing units in the city. Three hundred and seventy thousand. Eighty-five percent of them were in low density areas in the city. A hundred and fifty-three thousand of them in Queens. Most of these are basement apartments in subdivided units and most of them are illegal. I think we might have styled some of our housing crunch that but at some cost to the future in terms of the quality of our life and the ultimate longevity of that housing stock. For instance, overcrowded schools, deteriorating houses, no parking.
Last, let me mention one other phenomena I've noticed in Queens recently. The trees were disappearing in my neighborhood. I thought maybe it was the Asian beetle or something the Agricultural Department found recently. Was kind of interesting. Then I put two and two together and realized it wasn't an Asian beetle at all. It was people pulling down the trees to create carports and driveways because they can't park anymore. This is a way that the kind of over occupation of our housing stock deteriorates the neighborhood quality. A very subtle side of it but it does.
In effect, the 2000 census shows that a two hundred and seventy-eight thousand person increase in the Queens population since 1990. Two hundred and seventy-eight thousand more people. But truthfully the city's political system has just been unable to deal with that kind of population growth and come to the kind of decisions it needs to. It hasn't provided enough low cost housing for the immigrant population. It hasn't enforced the housing and zoning codes. It hasn't identified areas where higher population density can be accommodated. So the population has essentially overflowed into the areas (inaudible). Essentially into the basement of our low income, low density housing stock. That's why I say the coming decade will be a critical one for Queens and the city as a whole. The question is whether the new mayor, the City Council and the Borough President will have the political courage to make the difficult planning decisions we needed to make. Will they have the courage to tell homeowners in some communities they are not free to rent their basements, for example, for income. A flagrant violation of the housing and zoning regulation. Will they have the courage to tell other communities that redevelopments will be encouraged so the city can accommodate a surging population and in order to modernize its aging housing infrastructure. Will they have the courage to tell other constituencies especially industrial constituencies that we can not keep subsidizing obsolete industries or dying industries indirectly for protective zoning and land use regulation? That the city's economy has to evolve in the areas where jobs and income are going to be provided. Not looking with some kind of nostalgia toward an economy that no longer exists.
Good example on Western Queens Boulevard in Queens where you have a lot of underutilized manufacturing zones. The city's hoping to develop a new downtown in that area but where's the housing going to be to serve that downtown? You have to make those planning decisions ultimately. So these are very serious issues. I think Queens can possibly be one of the most important resources for New York in the coming ten to twenty years, but I would also argue that maybe it is the borough that faces the -- that is really at a crossroads more than any of the other boroughs as we enter a new political environment in next year and I hope you all keep those issues in mind. Thank you very much.
WOLLMAN: I would like to once again thank every speaker for this mornings work. Mind you how many prepared presentations you heard this morning. It is really again, I think we owe a level of gratitude to all the speakers who worked so hard to make the short summaries of things they work on day after day of their lives. Finally, I wants to thank once again Peter Magnani, who more than anyone else both on behalf of the borough president, but on behalf of the borough president's office helped to make all of this possible through detail telephone calls from me and people of the Institute and everyone else. He just rose to the occasion of sifting through the -- thank you. Thank all of you.
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