Simply Irresistible: Long Island City Attracting Manhattan Developers

Long Island City from Manhattan

And the next stop on the lucrative New York City real estate rocket train—which is shooting at extraordinary speeds down the tracks of development—is… Long Island City!

Which is interesting, although not particularly surprising. Long Island City has grown steadily in the last decade, thanks to a 2001 rezoning that reduced height restrictions and permitted significant new development. Despite continuous attempts at rebranding, however, the area never really took off. While Williamsburg and the East Village morphed into epicenters of “cool”, Long Island City was deemed the ugly girl, shunned by classmates and forced to eat lunch alone in the bathroom.

However, after years of questionable hairstyles and misapplied makeup, it appears that Long Island City has finally grown into itself and is now getting asked on dates by the popular boys. Numerous developers—developers that in years past considered Queens unworthy of their attention—are building massive residential complexes in LIC. L + M is constructing a 98-unit building at 45-46 Pearson Street. World-Wide is constructing a 421-unit building next to Queens Plaza. Property Markets Group is constructing a 400-unit building in Court Square.

Most of these developers have never ventured out of Manhattan or Brooklyn, which until now provided a more reliable and lucrative real estate market than Queens. However, Manhattan and Brooklyn are running out of space.

"If you want to build a 300-unit building, it’s tough to do that in a place like Williamsburg today," said Josh Zegen, a co-founder Madison Realty Capital.

Plus, Long Island City is simply more desirable than it used to be. New restaurants, bars, and grocery stores have opened up in the area, and they cater to young, demographically diverse residents.

“Add in the easy commute [to Midtown] and the affordability factor," said the President of Lightstone Realty, "and you have a very exciting alternative to Manhattan."

The “affordability factor” is debatable. Rent prices in Long Island City’s new apartment complexes are beginning to rival Manhattans. The average rent for a studio (in one of the new developments) in Long Island City is $2,294; the average rent for a studio on the West Side of Manhattan is $2,356.

And, apparently, the vast majority of the units in the new projects will be rentals. Reasons: Queens’ housing market is somewhat unpredictable compared to Manhattan and Brooklyn, so banks are hesitant to give developers loans for condominiums so soon after the recession; rentals are economically viable in Queens because there is more space to build; rents are high in LIC and are getting higher.

Long Island City isn’t forgetting its friends—it’s carrying the whole Queens posse up the social ladder with it. Six developments are under construction in Flushing; four developments are under construction in Astoria. For better or worse, it looks like the 5 Pointz graffiti mecca will soon be wiped off the map and replaced with two 1,000-unit towers. But, at least we still have PS1 to lavish us with some old fashioned Queen’s grittiness.