Community Board Demands Affordable Housing, Jobs for Astoria Cove Project

By Jeanmarie Evelly on June 18, 2014 5:57pm 

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 The five-building project would bring nearly 1,700 new apartments to the Astoria waterfront.
Astoria Cove Project
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ASTORIA — Queens Community Board 1 voted to reject the plan to turn a portion of Hallets Point into the massive Astoria Cove development unless a number of conditions are met, including more affordable housing and giving locals priority when it comes to jobs.

At its monthly meeting Tuesday night, CB1 presented 2030 Astoria Developers with a detailed list of conditions for the project, which ran some four pages long, according to board members.

The developers — a group of investors which includes Alma Realty — are applying for zoning changes to build five mixed-use buildings ranging from six to 32 stories on the Astoria waterfront.

The plan would include nearly 1,700 apartments as well as space for a school, 54,000 square feet of retail space and 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, including a waterfront esplanade and a children's play area.

The board's unanimous decision follows a lengthy public hearing last week, in which a number of residents expressed concerns about the project, specifically about the level of affordable housing.

"The board worked hard to develop this resolution," said board chairman Vinicio Donato.

He compared the challenge to that faced by Battery Park City, where residents pushed to include a bridge over the West Side Highway for Stuyvesant High School students.

"At one point they didn’t want to do that, and everyone forced them, including the politicians, to come up with the money to put that bridge [in]," he said. "So you can get things from developers."

Among other things CB1 wants the Astoria Cove developers to agree to increase the amount of affordable housing in the plan to 35 percent, compared to the 20 percent currently proposed.

The board also wants the developer to give priority to local residents and youths for a portion of jobs stemming from the project, and to work with building services and construction trades to set aside apprenticeship positions for locals.

Other stipulations include a request for an increase in the number of parking spaces, inclusion of a community recreational facility, space for a Head Start program and a medical center.

Howard Weiss, an attorney for the developers, said he felt the board "didn’t bring us any real objections to the project."

"A number of the things they mentioned are things that we already told them we’re going to do," he added. "And we will, by the time this gets to the City Planning Commission, be amending the application documents."

Weiss said the developer is already working to increase the affordable housing in the plan, which is currently proposed for 20 percent of the project's waterfront parcel, but will be expanded throughout the site.

"I don’t think 35 percent is realistic, but we are working with City Planning to increase the number of affordable units to what would be a realistically and economically viable affordable housing density," he said.

The Astoria Cove proposal will go to Queens Borough President Melinda Katz next for review.

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