Not long ago, the corridor along Queens Blvd was upzoned to permit a greater density of housing. The stretch of Queens Blvd running just west of Woodhaven Blvd to just east of Sunnyside has always been a historic no-person-land of single story restaurants, auto shops, and parking lots. Essentially, a little slice of Long Island shoved into Queens. With opportunity abound, developers began digging into the landscape and by late spring 2015, 70-26 Queens Blvd was well underway. Then came 70-09 45th Avenue, followed by 46-02 70th Street.
What do all three addresses have in common? Each one sits as a cement monolith with no residents. But what a charming skyline, right?
70-26 Queens Blvd
Let’s start with the biggest and most complete sore thumb. Ground broke on this building in 2015, and by that September, the structure was already seven stories high. By the following year, the structure had topped out. But since then, there has been no activity at the site. Plywood that covers the windows is turning gray and weathered. The PTAC slots sit lonely. The answer behind this stall doesn’t come easily, as there are no DOB stop work orders on the site (or the pre-merged lots). Whatever’s holding up work doesn’t appear to be safety or construction related.
Yet there are some indications this project may spring back to life. First, Steve Cheung, the developer and managing member behind 70-26 Queens Blvd, LLC, signed an easement on September 1, 2017, granting Time Warner Cable access to the property for the purposes of installing and removing cable equipment. Certainly, there must be confidence in the project, otherwise what’s the point of providing cable access if no one’s there to watch? There’s also some hope found for this project in the DOB filings. The work permit granting construction of this building was actually renewed on October 20, 2017. We aren’t holding our breath though, as two signs on the construction sheds claim a completion date of 2014 and 2015.
70-09 45th Avenue
At least with this project, additional information is available. As an initial matter, the remnants of a stop work order are still posted on the property. Narrowing down the issue from there is a bit difficult, as the writing on the SWO has faded. Further, the waters are muddied by the existence of two buildings on the lot, all unified by a common block and lot.
The question then becomes which building has the SWO, and just how broad the implications are for the entire lot. A followup with DOB records tells us a SWO (Stop Work Order) was indeed issued, but for 70-05 45th Avenue in August of 2015 (note the name of the property, 70-05 Realty Inc). This address (70-05) merged with the current address a year prior, and has the same block and lot number of the current project. Here’s the SWO’s verbiage:
“Specific Violation Condition(s) and Remedy: WORK W/O A DEMOLITION PERMIT.AT TIME OF INSP. OBSERVED DEMOLITION OF STEEL GATE/SIGN APPROX.20’HIGH AT SITE.SEARCH OF DOB RECORDS SHOW DEMOLITION PERMIT ISSUED EXPIRED.07/0815.REM:STOP ALL WORK,MAKE SAFE ONLY…”
Since that time, the building has risen about eight stories. Notably, in June of 2016, the SWO was not posted on the property. The only SWO in effect for 70-09 45th Ave was issued in September of 2015 and resolved by October of that year. So if there was a SWO issued after that date, it’s simply not in DOB’s records.
What’s clear though, is that construction has been silent. However, there is at least some prospect the project may reboot, as the latest iteration of the site plan application was approved on October 24, 2017. Also, according to ACRIS, the owner of the property, 70-05 Realty Inc, secured an additional $1.1 million loan in June of this year. Maybe it was just the Benjamins all along.
46-02 70th Street
This property, at the corner of 70th Street and Queens Blvd, has been sitting quiet since September. However, the reason construction stalled may be a bit easier to answer than the previous two projects – a partial SWO was issued by DOB in September 2017. This SWO, or at least a remnant, appears on the property placard. Like the previous property, it appears torn off, but we can still make out the violation numbers “35265891Y“.
“Specific Violation Condition(s) and Remedy: BC3309.1 PROTECTION MISSING ON ADJACENT PROPERTY. AT TIME OF INSPECTION OF 9STORY BUILDING CURRENTLY AT 7, I OBSERVED MISSING OVERHEAD PROTECTION TO THE BACKYARD OF THE ADJACENT BLDG LOCATED AT EXP3.”
That’s not to say there aren’t confusing aspects about this property. For example, the DOB record indicates a block and lot number of 2432 and 34. But look closely, the building remarks note: “LOTS 23,26,34,37 MERGED INTO NEW LOT 23, NEW LOT 23 = 46-02 70 STREET (06/2015).” This change doesn’t appear in the DOF tax maps, and the old lot number (34) is still being used as of the latest work permit application. The consolidation could be waiting for the approval process.
As a final note, eventually all of these buildings will be completed. The momentum is there, and the buildings are nearing completion. This area of Queens has been an unfortunate consequence of Queens Blvd for decades, encroaching on property and the ability of people to move freely. How adding all this new infrastructure is going to change that remains unclear, especially since at the time of this writing, not one of these projects has any affordability component.