In 2001 thirty-seven blocks were rezoned from industrial to residential-industrial use, in Long Island City, Queens. Developers were allowed to convert various industrial buildings to residential use. Those with a vision for a brighter future, like Ron Hershco, seized the opportunity. In 2006, Hershco developed and opened the area’s first ground-up residential condominium.
With so few residential buildings, Ron Hershco helped pioneer the area with his 12-story project, named Echelon, which boasted 54 units ranging in price from $345,000 to $1,000,000. Since then Long Island City has seen unbelievable development. The amazing development of the last decade or so is fitting for an area marked by changes that have transformed it into the wonderful mix of old and hip it has become today.
The history of Long Island City is characterized by its location and distinct neighborhoods, and by its transportation resources (subway, ferry service, tunnels, and bridges), which has led to major development through the years. In the 1800s, Long Island City was known as Astoria. Wealthy New Yorkers, wanting to escape city life traveled to Astoria and built mansions in the area. In 1870, the villages and hamlets of Astoria, Ravenswood, Hunters Point, and Steinway consolidated and became known as Long Island City. Less than thirty years later, Long Island City became part of New York City as NYC expanded to include Queens. Transportation links opened the door to commercial and industrial development and soon factories lined the East River waterfront.
By the 1970s, Long Island City was experiencing the decline of manufacturing affecting the entire nation. Although it remains NYC’s major industrial area, in the 70’s, a new era of artistic and cultural awakening was begun with the opening of P.S. 1 Contemporary Art Center. Artists escaping the high cost of doing business in Manhattan and Brooklyn have set up shop throughout Long Island City.
Since Ron Hershco’s Echelon project, Long Island City has continued to shed industry to make room for greater residential and commercial development. Like any area in flux, housing in Long Island City is a mixed bag, with widely ranging prices, sometimes from one block to the next. Real estate prices and residential availability are often determined by the neighborhood. Astoria and Hunters Point have seen great appreciation while others, such as Ravenswood and Dutch Kills, remain off the real estate radar.
The trend initiated by Mr. Hershco and his company continues today. People looking for a more peaceful way of life, away from the city, continue to flock to Long Island City’s neighborhoods where condos are still in high demand. Even in today’s market, condo prices range from about $400,000 for a studio to about $870,000 for a two-bedroom. Some three-bedrooms go for $1,000,000 or more! Although three-bedrooms are hard to come by.
Long Island City is still in the process of transformation. People like Ron Hershco have had a role to play in the changes taking place in the area. Since the official opening of Echelon, residential real estate continues to expand. Long Island City has become home to a dozen subway stations and a handful of bus lines to accommodate the many commuters. Besides the expanding waterfront park, there are many trendy restaurants, art galleries, and much more in way of entertainment and family fun.