Tag Archives: 32BJ SEIU

City Planning holds public hearing on Astoria Cove


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

More affordable housing in the Astoria Cove project was once again front and center with critics, this time at a City Planning public hearing on the project.

Members of coalitions and residents testified on Wednesday that the 2.2 million-square-foot project should include at least 50 percent affordable housing, while developers are proposing just 345 units or 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings.

“Soon they will take over the whole place and they will chase us out. Twenty percent of affordable housing is not enough for Queens,” a representative of New York Communities for Change testified at the meeting in Manhattan.

Jaron Benjamin, the executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing, said it would hurt progress to cure the city’s housing crisis.

“If Astoria Cove becomes just another glitzy playground for the wealthy elite, it will be a huge step backward — the opposite of progress,” he said.

Howard Weiss of the law firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, which represents developers Alma Realty, defended the project, calling it “the crown jewel in the reclamation of the Queens waterfront.”

In their recommendations to deny the project, both Community Board 1 and Borough President Melinda Katz suggested that the developers increase the units for affordable housing.

The City Planning Commission queried about the breakdown of the mix of housing in the plan, but it could not be provided yet.

“In looking at this project over a 10-year phasing plan, one has to keep in mind that market conditions can change,” Weiss said. “At present, it’s really too early to determine what mix will be.”

The commission also asked about main concerns the community and Katz had, including building the new elementary school in an earlier phase, and transportation options.

Prior to the public hearing, Weiss said developers are making public transportation commitments to ease community traffic concerns for the incoming residents in the area, which Katz called “insufficient” in terms of transportation options.

The plans include adding a shuttle bus to and from nearby subway stations, and there will be a spot for a ferry terminal, in case the city decides to add ferry service to the area.

Astoria Cove is expected to consist of five buildings, three on the waterfront ranging from 26 to 32 stories and two on the upland portion of the site, including a six-story residential building.

The project, which is expected to take more than 10 years to complete in four different phases, will also include about 84,000 square feet of publicly accessible open space.

At the public hearing, residents and union members from 32BJ SEIU asked that local jobs be set aside for local workers.

The City Planning Commission will issue its recommendations after its 60-day review. The proposal will then go to the City Council for a vote.

Councilman Costa Constantinides said he may not support it.

“Both Community Board 1 and Borough President Katz have voted against the Astoria Cove development with recommendations,” he said. “If the development is not integrated into our neighborhood in a way that benefits the community, I will be unable to support it.”

 

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Op-Ed: School buildings need adequate funding


| oped@queenscourier.com


BY COUNCILMEMBER JULISSA FERRERAS

Long before I was elected to office, I was the Beacon Program director at P.S. 19 in Corona, known at the time as the most overcrowded school in the country. My years of work engaging our neighborhood children helped me understand the effect of school building conditions on their academic performance.

Because their classrooms were overcrowded, the students received less attention to their individual learning needs and more distraction readily intruded upon their focus. I’ve since learned that overcrowded schools are only part of a bigger problem. Chronic underfunding of our school buildings has left too many of our children learning in less than adequate environments.

Cutbacks in school facilities funding over the years have led to widespread school overcrowding and crumbling schools across aging school buildings in many of the poorest neighborhoods in the city. More schools can relieve the overcrowding, but appropriate funding for their operation and maintenance is necessary to keep them all in good, working order. Our children deserve to learn under the best possible conditions in the greatest city in the world.

I’m proud to say I’ve launched an Education Task Force with the help of Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott, the School Construction Authority and our community partners to not only improve communication between our schools and parents, but also advocate for better funding of our school facilities and develop long-term solutions.

New York City spends a smaller percentage of its total education budget on building maintenance and operations than most other large school districts in the country, and the percentage of the city’s education budget dedicated to facilities keeps shrinking by millions of dollars, according to a report published in early May by 32BJ SEIU. The union represents 5,000 public school cleaners and handypersons.

According to that report, there are thousands of open building code violations in hundreds of school buildings across the city. As these violations are repaired, the number of building code violations changes, but there seems to be a constant and exorbitant number of them left unaddressed. I worry that in overcrowded schools, the large student populations place an overwhelming demand on dwindling resources and supplies, exacerbating school conditions at a rapid pace.

When toilets don’t work or the heat doesn’t stay on, we place an undue burden on our children and it falls disproportionately on poorer neighborhoods. These are basic things that any one of us would take care of in the privacy of our own home, and the city needs to give the same priority to these issues at our children’s schools. This should increase the urgency of our endeavor.

The City of New York and the Department of Education must allocate sufficient funding to address these problems in our school buildings. School cleaners and handypersons need the right resources and manpower to keep school buildings operating. And just as years of advocacy by parents, students and community organizations got the city to cut the timeline in half to remove toxic PCBs from public school lights, we must focus as a community on the improvement of our children’s school buildings and give them the learning environment they deserve.

Councilmember Julissa Ferreras represents the 21st Council District encompassing Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights. She is the Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee and is a member of the Committees on Parks and Recreation, Civil Rights, Consumer Affairs, Economic Development, Finance and Health.

 

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Unions back Queens soccer stadium


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Major League Soccer

Kicking in their support for hundreds of potential jobs, several construction unions have backed the proposed Major League Soccer (MLS) stadium in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The Hotel Trades Council; the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York; and 32BJ SEIU all backed the project for its potential to give union workers jobs and provide nearly 1,000 full and part-time jobs after construction is completed. “

A Major League Soccer stadium in Queens will be good for the working men and women of New York City; it will create good jobs and enhance the park,” said Hector Figueroa, president of 32BJ. “We are committed to continuing to work with MLS and the community to make sure this is done in a way to benefit the area as a whole.”

The stadium building is expected to create more than 2,000 union construction according to MLS officials. Unions have already delivered messages of support to projects such as the development at neighboring Willets Point, which is expected to create an upwards of 12,000 union construction jobs.

“The economy in Queens is still hurting,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of the Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York. “The recession is still taking a toll on middle and lower income families, and it would be a shame for Queens to be shut out of such a tremendous opportunity for good jobs. That’s why we will fight to make sure this project is successful and benefits Queens’ working families.”

MLS spokesperson Risa Heller said the league was thrilled to garner union backing on the project. The League is committed to creating jobs, she said, both directly at the stadium and spurring economic growth around the park.

“We are thrilled to have the support of unions who represent hundreds of thousands of working men and women,” she said. “They understand, as we do, what an important economic engine this stadium will be. We look forward to working with them to make it a reality.” The stadium, and its economic promises, have been met with criticism from opponents to the project, however.

NYC Park Advocates president Geoffrey Croft, who’s opposed to the project, said the union backing was part of a “checklist” of gaining support for an unfair project. While he understood there’s a need for jobs in the city, Croft said jobs should be made for bettering the park, and not building in it.

“It’s really sad,” Croft said. “They’re following the standard playbook for supposed support for these projects.”

 

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