Hallets Point Development May Include New School on NYCHA Campus

By Jeanmarie Evelly on December 19, 2012 11:46am 

ASTORIA — A proposal to build a $1 billion waterfront development in Hallets Point may include a new K-8 school, according to plans presented last week at a public meeting.

Developer Lincoln Equities Group wants to transform seven acres of the Astoria waterfront, constructing seven residential buildings with more than 2,000 apartment units, retail development and a landscaped public esplanade along the East River.

The latest plans for the site now include the possibility of a new school, according to an environmental planning consultant working on behalf of the developers. The school might be necessary to accommodate the influx of families expected to move into the area once the development opens, planners said.

"Having done some preliminary analysis of what this project means, in terms of new demands on the various services, we are also studying the potential for a new K-8 public school," said Linh Do, of the consulting firm AKRF. "At this point, we are thinking it will be located on the NYCHA campus."

Do presented the latest version of the plans last Thursday, at a public meeting with the Department of City Planning at the Goodwill headquarters in Astoria. The developers are seeking a number of zoning changes to go forward with the project, and DCP will be accepting public comment on the proposals until Dec. 26.

The plan will have to be approved through the city's formal Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, which Do estimates will start some time after February. If approved, the developers could break ground as early as 2014, with construction happening in phases.

The entire project could then be completed by 2022, Do said.

Lincoln Equities is working with NYCHA and the city's School Construction Authority to see if a school would be viable on land that now serves as parking spaces for residents at the Astoria Houses, Do said.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said it does not comment on "projects that may be under discussion." A NYCHA spokesperson declined to comment other than confirming that a school is being considered.

Some NYCHA residents present at last week's meeting say they're thrilled to hear a school is being considered for Hallets Point. The closest public elementary school now is nearby P.S. 171.

"We want to ensure that the school is a mandate," said Ronnie Minor, who identified himself as a community activist. "The school has to be built."

Andre Stith, a lifelong Astoria Houses resident who works with the local nonprofit Zone 126, said a new school would bring more educational opportunities to the neighborhood's children.

"Right now we have a situation where our children are getting into a lot of things, and it’s as simple as they have no options," he said.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., who has been on the fence about the Hallets Point proposal, said the inclusion of a school in the plan is a step in the right direction.

"That's something that I've been asking for, and I'm glad that they're seriously considering it," he said.

His main concern with the project is that the neighborhood doesn't have the existing resources to accommodate the number of residents the new development would bring.

"Schools for the children there is one of my concerns," Vallone said.

Vallone and other neighborhood stakeholders also worry about transportation, with several calling for a ferry service to Manhattan to be included in the plans.

The Hallets Point project, if approved, would entirely reshape this section of Astoria, an area that has yet to see the type of waterfront development that's happening in nearby Long Island City. Two of the seven proposed residential buildings would be built on the NYCHA campus, Do said, and set aside as affordable housing.

The remainder would be market-rate apartments.

Claudia Coger, president of the Astoria Houses Tenants Association, said she and other tenants have been working with the developers since talk of the project first surfaced about five years ago. They're hopeful the plan will bring more resources to Hallets Point, a chunk of land that juts out into the East River just south of Astoria Park.

"On the peninsula, we're locked away from a lot of things," Coger said. "We want life brought back to this community."

Coger said she's pleased the developers have promised to include a quality supermarket in the plan, which Do said would be the first thing built once construction starts.

Still, some residents at last week's meeting expressed concerns about the project. Many asked that any jobs created as a result of the development be promised to local residents; others wanted assurance that any retail businesses brought in would be affordable.

Coger said the tenants' association plans to watch the project closely as it progresses, to ensure it reflects the needs of the community.

"We're here today to see that the baby will not be thrown out with the bath water," she said.

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