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Astoria Re-Zoning Voted Down

June 20, 2014

Astoria Re-Zoning Voted Down by Community Board  – Community Board 1 takes strong stand against the Astoria Cove rezoning until it makes considerable changes to benefit the community.  

On June 17th, Queens Community Board 1 voted against the proposed Astoria Cove rezoning because the developer did not provide details on how the project would benefit the community, especially around affordable housing, jobs, and community facilities. The community board specifically asked for an increase from 20% to 35% affordable housing and that it be affordable to low-, moderate-, and middle-income families and remain affordable for the life of the building.  While the community board’s vote is advisory and non-binding, it sends a clear message to all stakeholders that the community demands more.

A group of investors names 2030 Astoria Developers – led by Alma Realty – are applying to rezone an area along the Astoria waterfront from manufacturing to residential in order to build 1,700 apartments, approximately 54,000 square feet of retail space, and set-aside land for the School Construction Authority to build a public elementary school in the future.  However, as outlined in a recent ANHD Blog, the plan lacks too many specifics for the community, or the City, to make an informed decision as to how this development that is displacing many good quality manufacturing jobs, will benefit the local community.

According to a report in the Queens Courier:

“The four pages of conditions included an increase of affordable housing units from 20 percent to 35 percent dispersed throughout all five buildings of the site and be included in every construction phase; increase of parking spaces; priority of construction and permanent jobs given to local residents and youth; commercial space set aside for recreational and medical facilities; and the importance of the 456-seat public elementary school constructed at the site.”

The Astoria Post details how well the community board understands the impact such a development can have on their community, especially its potential to help meet the need for deeply, and permanently affordable housing:

“It wants Alma to build a significant number of affordable two bedroom units in each building, which can cater to families.  It also wants the affordable units to be integrated among all five residential buildings.

“The board said that all tenants – whether they live in an affordable or market-rate units – must have the same access to building amenities.  Furthermore, those units deemed “affordable” must remain so for the life of the building.  The board also stated that the affordable units should “accommodate low, moderate and middle-income individuals and families.”

The vote comes just a week after an emotional public hearing where over 50 community members, including tenants, union members, public housing residents, and artists, spoke out to ask questions and voice serious concerns about the proposed development – especially about the lack of affordable housing, scale and visual impact of the proposal, and the jobs and hiring practices that will be utilized.  At the hearing, Alma Realty could provide surprisingly few specifics on the plan except to say that they were working with the City to address some of these concerns.  Since the hearing, Alma’s lawyers continue to say the same thing, and even worse, they have come out to say that the 35% affordable housing is unrealistic.

A project of this scale has the potential to benefit the community and the developer, but only if done in a responsible manner, which includes strong binding plans to create quality jobs for local residents and disadvantaged workers; permanent affordable housing that is truly affordable to the community; and sufficient community services and amenities that are accessible to the whole community, not simply the new residents of Astoria Cove.

The community board vote an advisory vote and is the first step in a six-month public planning process known as ULURP. It next goes before the Queens Borough President, whose vote is also advisory, before going on to the three binding votes by the City Planning Commission, City Council, and the Mayor.  We urge all stakeholders to follow Community Board 1’s lead and insist that Alma provide concrete plans that demonstrate a commitment to the local community.

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