Queens Tops Charts for NYC Construction Permits in 2014


A photo from Norman Towers.
A ribbon-cutting on Oct. 30 at Norman Towers, a new affordable housing development, in Jamaica, Queens. (New York City Department of Housing, Preservation and Development)

In 2014, Queens was issued the highest number of full-building demolition and new building permits, according to New York City Department of Buildings data provided to Commercial Observer. The data showed that Queens obtained 643 new building permits and 575 full building demolition permits last year. This is an increase from 2013, when the borough was issued 593 new building permits and 510 full demolition permits.

“Development throughout the city has been encouraging as can be seen from the issuance of construction permits,” said Department of Buildings Commissioner Rick D. Chandler. “In Queens alone, over this past year there has been a combined increase of over 20 percent in issuance of new building and demolition permits, key indicators of continuing development. This can be attributable to a number of factors including city growth, and is certainly aided by the mayor’s affordable housing initiative.”

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Melinda Katz, the Queens borough president, told Commercial Observer that “we are getting approached by developer after developer that want to come into Queens. Queens is the next place to build the commercial space and the affordable housing that the mayor’s been talking about.” She added that “we are growing the tech scene in Long Island City, we’re looking for investors in the Rockaways, so it makes sense that our numbers would show that.”

Of the new building permits issued in Queens, 190 were for commercial building and 453 were for residential.

“We think this is good news. It shows that the market is recognizing the potential that lies in Queens,” said John Young, the Queens planning director at the Department of City Planning.

Some publications, including this one, have already shed light on Queens’ potential for growth and development. Lonely Planet recently named the borough the top destination to visit in 2015. In December, Gotham Gazette noted that “the success of new luxury residential developments in western Queens, and large development projects in Flushing, Corona and Willets Point have developers dreaming of new glass high-rise residential towers.” The area has recently made real estate headlines with mixed-use project Astoria Cove. There has been rezoning of large swaths of borough neighborhoods, including Jamaica, East Elmhurst and Ozone Park, with 45 neighborhood contextual rezonings having been undertaken since 2002.

However, new building permits do not necessarily translate into housing unit permits issued. According to data provided by the Real Estate Board of New York, in 2014 (excluding December), Brooklyn was issued the most housing unit permits, with 6,934. The borough was followed by Manhattan, which received 5,281 and then Queens, which received 3,789. Though the Department of Buildings measures growth in part by the number of building permits issued, it is important to note that projects in Manhattan can be significantly larger than those in Queens, thereby creating more housing.

Ms. Katz said her jurisdiction is in dire need of affordable housing. “One of the biggest challenges we have in Queens is balancing development because we desperately need housing,” she emphasized. The Queens communities of Woodside, Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona are some of the most severely overcrowded neighborhoods citywide.

“With prices at their highest in years homeowners and owners of industrial properties are taking advantage and cashing out by selling to developers,” said Peter Horowitz, a real estate broker working in Queens and the owner of Astoria-based Horowitz Real Estate. “There’s tremendous demand for properties in Queens, especially in the areas of Astoria and [Long Island City]. More zoning changes… will allow and make way for more high-rise hotel and condo development.”

The number of permits issued in Queens presented a stark contrast to the number of new building and full-building demolition permits issued in Manhattan, which were only 92 and 160 respectively. Unlike in Manhattan, where virtually every square inch of its 23.7 square miles is utilized and construction almost exclusively involves tearing down buildings to erect another in its place, there is still developable land in the outer boroughs, including within Queens’ 112.2 square miles.

Brooklyn had the second highest number of new building permits, with 591 issued, followed by Staten Island, where 571 were given. The Bronx had 150 permits issued.

Brooklyn and Staten Island also trailed Queens with full-building demolition permits, with 557 and 277 issued respectively. The Bronx, with 98, had the fewest full-building demolition permits.