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Astoria Leaders 'Living in Hope' That Full Hallets Point Project Proceeds

By Jeanmarie Evelly | February 22, 2016 11:57am
 A rendering of the Durst Organization's future development, Hallets Point.
A rendering of the Durst Organization's future development, Hallets Point.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — Local leaders say they were shocked to learn that a massive plan to bring affordable housing, much needed retail options, green space and a school to the mostly industrial area of Hallets Point is in jeopardy.

DNAinfo New York reported Thursday that the next phase of the Hallets Point development plan — billed by officials as a means to revitalize the Astoria waterfront — is on hold after the state's 421a tax break program expired last month, a day after the project broke ground.

"We are really living in hope that its going to work out, where it will go forward," said Claudia Coger, the tenant association president at the nearby NYCHA Astoria Houses, which occupies much of the neighborhood where Hallets Point is planned.

Plans for the development have been underway for seven years, and the complex was expected to bring needed retail options and public green space to the otherwise industrial area.

"It's so essential to the redevelopment of the peninsula," she said.

Developer the Durst Organization said the first building in the project, slated to include more than 400 apartments and a supermarket, will go forward to completion.

But the remainder of the plan — which includes six more buildings, space for a school and a public esplanade along the East River — is in limbo because it would be too costly to build without the tax breaks, the developer said.

"I'm very disappointed that Albany has not been able to resolve this conflict," said Richard Khuzami, president of the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association.

He's received mixed reactions from his members, with at least one person saying they'd prefer to see just the first phase of the project go through, as the entirety of the Hallets Point plan is too large and out of scale for the area.

But others — Khuzami included — see the project as a good thing for the neighborhood, bringing jobs and other opportunities, and are hoping the developers will find a way to build the next phase.

"We need that kind of development on the waterfront," Khuzami said.

Though the first building that's being constructed will include 81 affordable apartments, the next phase that's in limbo was expected to bring 400 more affordable units, half of which would have given preference to Astoria Houses residents.

Florence Koulouris, the district manager for Queens Community Board 1, said Hallets Point earned a lot of support from residents during the course of its planning, particularly because it would bring more amenities to the neighborhood.

"[The plan would've provided] businesses and day-to-day life necessities that people have to travel for that they don't have there," she said. "It's been a group effort to get this project in. We would hate to see it not happen."