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City Council Hearing Takes Aim at Affordability of Astoria Cove Proposal

 The Astoria Cove plan includes five mixed-use buildings on the Astoria waterfront.
The Astoria Cove plan includes five mixed-use buildings on the Astoria waterfront.
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Courtesy Davidoff Hutcher & Citron LLP

CITY HALL — The developers behind the Astoria Cove project were grilled at a City Council hearing on Monday, with some council members saying the plan's affordable housing proposal falls short of what's needed in the neighborhood.

2030 Astoria Developers, which includes Alma Realty, is vying to turn a swath of the Astoria waterfront into a five-building development with more than 1,700 apartments, retail shops, a school and a waterfront esplanade.

But some council members have serious concerns about the plan, including Astoria rep Costa Constantinides, who said he's worried about whether the project will benefit his district or "be a castle with a moat around it."

Though the developer plans to make 345 units — or 20 percent of the project — available to households making 80 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), Constantinides says the proposed zoning gives an option to build more affordable units but market some of them for residents in a higher income range.

"The developer has the option to build only 10 percent of the units at 80 percent AMI, while the other 20 percent remaining affordable units could go up to 175 AMI. That’s the equivalent of paying $2,700 a month for a one-bedroom," the councilman said.

"Not only is this not affordable, but these rates are actually above market for the vast majority of my community," he continued.

The average income in his district is about $56,000 a year, or 74 percent of the AMI.

"Until Astoria Cove is made affordable for actual Astorians, I cannot support this project," he said.

The affordability of Astoria Cove has been a point of contention before — Queens Borough President Melinda Katz voted against the plan, citing a lack of affordable units, while Community Board 1 requested that the developers raise the number of affordable apartments to 35 percent from the proposed 20 percent.

The City Council is expected to vote on the Astoria Cove plan in the coming weeks. It was approved by the City Planning Commission last month.

Howard Weiss, an attorney for the 2030 developers, told Constantinides they aim to continue discussions with him and the rest of the council about the proposal.

"At the end of the day we hope that you and your colleagues in the council can be satisfied, that the program as proposed for this project works for the neighborhood, and also that its going to be economically viable," Weiss said at Monday's hearing.