Iconic Queens Clock Tower Anchors 915-Foot Skyscraper

In a complex saga involving the MTA, an 88-year-old tower, and a planned 77-story apartment behemoth, affordable housing may be first to fall by the wayside.

April 11, 2015, 11:00 AM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Queens New York

Aleksandr Zykov / Flickr

Matt A.V. Chaban reports on how a unique development situation arose in Queens. He writes, "Fourteen stories is nothing in today’s booming neighborhood, but until 1990, the brown-brick structure at 29-27 Queens Plaza North was the tallest commercial building in Queens [...] Now it will be truly overshadowed. A 915-foot skyscraper — the city's tallest outside Manhattan — is about to sprout on its doorstep. Yet the connection is no coincidence: The clock tower is helping make this 77-story glassy giant possible."

Oddly, the MTA was instrumental in facilitating the mega-project. From the article: "the [MTA's] board approved the transfer of approximately 477,000 square feet of air rights to the developers for just under $56 million. The rights came from an adjacent lot where the agency has dug a hole nearly as deep as the clock tower is tall. Through it runs a tunnel that will bring the Long Island Rail Road into Grand Central Terminal."

In a move that has provoked qualms among members of the MTA's board, "[t]he developers are in a race to begin construction by summer so they can qualify for tax breaks without having to include affordable housing." The old clock tower will instead provide office space for tech firms. 

Monday, March 30, 2015 in New York Times

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