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Residents Question Affordability of Astoria Cove Development

 The five-building project would bring nearly 1,700 new apartments to the Astoria waterfront.
Astoria Cove Project
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ASTORIA — Dozens of community members spoke out at a public hearing this week about the proposed Astoria Cove development, with many questioning the number of affordable housing units in the project and the impact it will have on the neighboring community.

2030 Astoria 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, which would be constructed in four phases over a span of 10 years.

The project, planned for the Hallets Point peninsula along 26th Avenue between 4th and 9th streets, would include nearly 1,700 apartments, space for a 456-seat public elementary school and nearly 54,000 square feet of retail space, including a supermarket.

It will also bring 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space, including a waterfront esplanade, pedestrian mews and a children's playground to the currently industrial parcel of waterfront land that an attorney for the developer described as "inaccessible to the community."

"It's desolate, it's underutilized," said lawyer Howard Weiss, saying the developer's vision is "to try to bring the community to the waterfront."

If approved, Astoria Cove would be the second massive residential project coming to the Hallets Point peninsula, joining Lincoln Equities' plan to construct more than 2,000 apartments, which was approved by the City Council last fall.

At the hearing, several speakers expressed concerns about how the area's infrastructure will support the influx of new people, how the taller buildings will affect neighbors' views of the waterfront and whether the number of affordable apartments included in the project are sufficient.

Preliminary documents for Astoria Cove released last year said that a minimum of 340 affordable units would be included in the plan, though the current proposal lists 295, as the Daily News first reported.

Weiss said the developer is currently working with the Department of City Planning to increase the number of affordable units in the project, but would not provide a specific figure for what that might be.

"It's a slap in the face to us all that the realtor for this project is trying to force out the middle class by slashing the number of affordable units, and then try to placate us with talk of possibly adding back a few of the units that should have never been cut in the first place," Astoria resident Tyler Ocon, 24, said at Tuesday's hearing.

Weiss said the discrepancy is due to changes made over the last year to the distribution and size of the housing units included in the plan. 

"That higher number was reflected in very preliminary plans, and as we've worked towards developing more family-sized units, it eats up more floor area but it decreases the number of units," he said.

He contends that while the number of affordable units dropped, the percentage of floor area devoted to affordable housing has remained at the 20 percent required by the city's inclusionary housing program.

"We're working with City Planning to increase the number of units," he said.

But Diane Kurfis, who said she represents the Old Astoria Community Association and lives near the project site, said she would welcome the new development and the retail and other amenities it would bring to the area.

"That is a wasted area. There's nothing there, there is no one going to the water, you can't go down there," she said. "They're proposing a supermarket, a school, all these little stores and shops with security — that would be a great advantage."

Community Board 1 is expected to vote on the Astoria Cove application at its monthly board meeting on Tuesday.