Across the Yards examines the East Long Island City area in Queens, New York. More than 50,000 students and office workers use the area, which has historically been dominated by industrial and manufacturing uses. Despite its important role as host to a major educational institution and to workplaces for a significant number of New Yorkers, East Long Island City fails to meet many of its users’ basic needs. People who travel to the area for school or work encounter multiple and severe safety issues, scarce retail activity, traffic congestion, and a near complete lack of open space. Our clients, LaGuardia Community College (LGCC) and NYC’s Department of Design and Construction Town+Gown program (DDC), tasked our Hunter College Master of Urban Planning graduate studio with developing a number of short to long-term recommendations to comprehensively address the needs of students and office workers while accommodating and fortifying the manufacturing and industrial sector.
The studio performed a comprehensive analysis to understand the area’s needs, focusing on three groups of users: students, office workers, and industrial and manufacturing businesses. Through charrettes, surveys, and interviews with students and office workers, we identified a need for healthier and more affordable food options, basic amenities, parking, improved pedestrian safety and atmosphere, and enhanced connectivity to other areas. By analyzing primary and secondary data, we found that the area’s industrial and manufacturing businesses provide economic opportunities, but face threats due to rent pressure from offices moving into the area. They also offer an opportunity to connect students to high-quality jobs.
We developed recommendations with an understanding of the challenges that arise as students, workers, and businesses with different needs are forced to share limited space. As a result, our proposals work towards reconciling conflicting needs such as relieving traffic congestion while expanding industrial business activity, increasing open space availability while adding parking options, and preserving manufacturing space while adding retail and commercial facilities.
The combined recommendations transform East Long Island City into a thriving educational, office, and industrial district where people enjoy improved public space, commercial activity, transportation access, and job opportunities.