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First Look at New York's Tallest Tower Outside of Manhattan

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Before summer, construction will likely begin on not only the tallest tower in Queens, but in all of New York City outside of Manhattan. The 915-foot-tall, 930-unit behemoth will rise beside—and partially consume—the iconic clock tower, dwarfing the 14-story landmark hopeful. A preliminary rendering by SLCE Architects revealed in the New York Times shows that the new skyscraper and the 1927 former bank will share a base, and the tower, which looks similar to SLCE's 388 Bridge Street, will rise behind the Art Deco structure. It may look like the 77-story skyscraper will completely and totally overshadow the clock tower, but according to the developers, Property Markets Group and the Hakim Organization, the development is giving "the building the prominence it deserves." Sure.

The tower will hold 930 market rate apartments, and the clock tower will be kept as office space for tech companies. The developers agreed to build a public 1.25-acre park, and preservationists will be pleased to learn that they support the landmarking of the clock tower—though they may not be pleased by the design plans. However, it's worth pointing out that combining historic buildings with glassy towers is not foreign territory for Property Markets Group; they are doing something similar with Steinway Hall and SHoP's skinny tower at 111 West 57th Street.

The new tower is made possible thanks to air rights from the clock tower, as well as 478,000 square feet of development rights purchased for $56 million from the MTA. The money will go toward transit improvements, but the deal was not necessarily an easy one for the authority to make. Initially, the developers wanted to buy 750,000 square feet in order to build a 90-story (or more) tower, but the question of affordable housing and transit access brought the building size down.

Some members of the board felt that the MTA should strike a deal that required the developers to include affordable housing, but that would have meant less money for the authority. Ultimately, the majority of the board, including chairman and chief executive, Thomas F. Prendergast, decided that "their responsibility was to riders, not residents," and the sale was approved.

As such, the developers are not required to include any affordable housing at all, yet they will still qualify for the 421-a tax break if they break ground before the program expires in June since Long Island City is one of the areas where this is inexplicably how the program works. Affordable housing advocates are pushing to change the 421-a rules, so after June, developers will likely be required to include affordable units.

At 915-feet, the new tower will be the tallest in the city outside of Manhattan. Currently, the tallest is 658-foot One Court Square, and there are several buildings in the works that will top it. Property Markets Group is also building a 775-foot SHoP-designed tower in Downtown Brooklyn, and Heatherwood Communities is developing a 635-foot apartment tower very near to the clock tower at 42-12 28th Street. At one point, that would have nabbed the title of the tallest residential tower in Queens, but no longer.
· New Queens Plaza Skyscraper Gets Help From Historic Clock Tower Next Door [NYT]
· Imagining a 77 Story Clocktower in Long Island City [Nick Normal]
· All 29-37 41st Avenue coverage [Curbed]