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Hallets Point Developer Ditches Plans for Stand-Alone Power System

By Jeanmarie Evelly | July 8, 2016 2:59pm | Updated on July 11, 2016 8:25am
 An initial rendering of the future development planned for Hallets Points.
An initial rendering of the future development planned for Hallets Points.
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Durst Organization

ASTORIA — The developer behind the massive Hallets Point development is scrapping plans to build a complex, stand-alone power system to service the buildings — citing the lapse of the state's 421-a program, which they say has left future phases of the project in jeopardy.

The Durst Organization originally planned to build three power plants along the Astoria waterfront to service the seven buildings in its Hallets Point project, creating its own "micro-grid" for the development, according to spokesman Jordan Barowitz.

The facilities would have provided a more efficient, stand-alone power system for the complex, powering its heat, hot water and air conditioning systems separate from Con Edison's service, he explained.

"This has a number of environmental benefits," he said. "Astoria has a strained [energy] grid, and this would not upload anymore stress on the grid."

But the developer is dropping those plans after the expiration of the state's 421-a tax abatement program, which offered tax breaks to developers building residential housing. It expired earlier this year and has yet to be revived. 

► Read more: What the 421-a Tax Break Stalemate in Albany Means for NYC Housing

While Durst is constructing the first building in the Hallets Point portfolio — it broke ground a day before 421-a ended, so is still covered by the program — the developer says it can't afford to build the next six buildings unless 421-a, or a similar tax break, is reinstated. 

It's this uncertainty that prompted Durst to ditch the plans for its own power system, Barowitz said.

"It doesn't work with one building," he said, saying the stand-alone system depends on there being several plants that could function as back-ups for the others if one went down.

Instead, the building that's being constructed will operate off the existing Con Edison energy grid, but will have other green features, including a centralized cooling system that's designed to be more efficient, Barowitz said.

Politico first reported on the change.

Richard Khuzami, head of the local civic group the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, said they were "disappointed" to hear about the loss of the environmentally-friendly system.

"Especially as our grid is so old and in need of repair," he said.

"We hope that the politicians in Albany get a tax abatement of some nature passed as soon as possible," he added. "There's no reason in the world why the residents of the Old Astoria neighborhood should pay a price for the politics."

Construction of Durst's first building, which will have 400 apartments, about 80 of them affordable, is expected to finish in the spring of 2018, Barowitz said.