How Flushing became a hotbed for development

Queens neighborhood has turned into epicenter for projects

A photo illustration of SkyView Companies’ Dave Brickman (Getty, SkyView Companies)
A photo illustration of SkyView Companies’ Dave Brickman (Getty, SkyView Companies)

If the No. 7 subway line were a rainbow, Flushing would be developers’ pot of gold.

Land in the Queens neighborhood is trading like baseball cards, permit applications are pouring in and developments are popping up like mushrooms — interest rates and recession fears be damned.

“It’s always been an active market and a place for development,” RIPCO Real Estate’s Stephen Preuss said. “It’s always gonna buck the overall economy as well, where even during downturns or times of political or economic flux, Flushing has always been a community and a commercial marketplace that has thrived.”

Downtown Flushing, at the end of the 7 line, gives off an energy that rivals Midtown during the holidays. Density has a lot to do with that: About 257,000 people reside in Flushing, Whitestone and Murray Hill, making it the most populous neighborhood in New York.

But just as important is that the historically Asian-American community does not depend on other areas of the city to stay busy. Residents center their personal and professional lives in the multi-generational neighborhood and typically own rather than rent.

“To me, this is about the 15-minute neighborhood,” said attorney Ross Moskowitz, a Flushing native who represents several developers’ projects in the neighborhood. “The ability to get to work, to get home, to get to services, to get to open space, to get to schools, to live, work and play within a 15-minute stretch. If you think about what Flushing has to offer, you get that environment. It kind of checks all those boxes.”

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Because its residents prefer to own real estate, Flushing has become a hotbed for condominium projects among developers from the area and beyond.

One of the many active there is SkyView Companies, which developed the Sky View Parc complex on 13 acres between Roosevelt Avenue, College Point Boulevard and 40th Road. The project includes a pair of condominiums with nearly 1,200 units, a 1.2 million-square-foot shopping center and a wellness center.

The developer, formerly known as Onex Real Estate Partners, also owns The Urban, a mixed-use property with 103 rental units and 35,000 square feet of retail at 144-74 Northern Boulevard, about 10 minutes away. SkyView sold Sky View Parc’s shopping center to Blackstone for $400 million in 2015.

Flushing’s location and offerings sold SkyView on the neighborhood, said the firm’s head of acquisitions and development, Dave Brickman.

“It has a lot of built-in advantages, but ultimately what drew us there was that we saw the early stage of what it is today in terms of being a 24/7 city,” Brickman said. “The community has just sort of grown even beyond what frankly we had even anticipated.”

Leaflet map created by Adam Farence | Data by © OpenStreetMap, under ODbl.

These developers know the neighborhood. They’re not speculators, they’re not absentee owners. They’re here.
Ross Moskowitz, land-use attorney

An even larger project than SkyView’s is on the way. A trio of developers — United Construction & Development Group, F&T Group and Young Nian Group — got approval for a special waterfront district two years ago to allow for 13 buildings with more than 1,700 residential units, 680,000 square feet of commercial space and about 900 hotel rooms.

The City Council okayed the 29-acre rezoning despite local groups calling the project too large or its affordable housing insufficient. The development — bordered by Flushing Creek, Northern Boulevard, College Point Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue — is expected to be completed by 2025.

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Filings are already in for an 18-story, 190,000-square-foot, mixed-use development with 122 apartments at 39-08 Janet Place, also known as 131-35 Roosevelt Avenue.

Moskowitz, a Stroock & Stroock & Lavan partner who represented the developers in the rezoning and planning process, said that projects like theirs benefit from local builders who understand Flushing.

“These developers know the neighborhood, they know the population, they know the community, so they’re attentive to what works and what doesn’t work,” Moskowitz said. “They are really invested. They’re not speculators, they’re not absentee owners. They’re here.”

The waterfront development will boost the area’s momentum, according to Meridian Capital’s Morris Betesh.

“I think the delivery of those projects is only going to further enhance the credibility of the market,” Betesh said. “Those will likely be the next best thing in Flushing.”

But not all Flushing development plans have led to the proverbial pot of gold.

In 2006, the same Janet Place/Roosevelt Avenue property in the new waterfront district, a vacant lot between Sky View Parc’s condos and Flushing Creek, was bought for $26 million by Reuven Rivlin’s ABS Management & Development and Chaim Babad’s Babad Management. LEV Development Group, founded by Nest Seekers International CEO Eddie Shapiro, spearheaded plans for a huge apartment, hotel and retail complex on their behalf.

But the financial crisis hit and the project never got financed. Later, they planned the area’s first gated mixed-use community at the site, but fell behind on their debt in 2012 and lenders moved to foreclose. The owners held on but put it on the market in 2016.

The owners of the 11-story, 53,000-square-foot Shirokia Tower condominium complex at 142-28 38th Avenue also faced foreclosure before Madison Realty Capital rescued the project in 2018 with a $14 million mortgage.

Two years ago, Flushing developer and supermarket owner Jeffrey Wu’s real estate portfolio of office and condominium properties were put into bankruptcy. The properties included a 100,000-square-foot office and retail building at 41-60 Main Street in Flushing and about half of the 99-unit condo development at 133-38 Sanford Avenue.

Nevertheless, Flushing’s propensity for condo development has made the neighborhood more compelling given the expiration of 421a, a key tax incentive for building rentals.

Proposals to emerge in the wake of 421a’s expiration in June include:

  • FSA Capital’s 17-story, 173,000-square-foot mixed-use development with 102 residential units at 133-09-17 37th Avenue and 36-27-51 College Point Boulevard
  • Hang Dong Zhang’s 14-story, 143,000-square-foot mixed-use condominium at a development site he bought at 138-28 Northern Boulevard
  • Broadway 32nd Realty Corp’s 15-story, 255,000-square-foot mixed-use project with 121 luxury residential units at 141-46 Northern Boulevard

“These developers are really focusing on areas where they can buy land for condos because residential rentals are not something that make sense without that tax abatement, and Flushing has been as successful as any area as far as the price per square foot on some of these condo sellouts,” Preuss said.

“People are retreating back and looking at Flushing as a place they can buy development sites for condos.”