Tag Archives: City Council

Another Astoria waterfront warehouse for sale, likely to become condos


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Massey Knakal

The owner of another Astoria waterfront site with potential for a large development could sell the property for four times its last selling price as the neighborhood continues its hot streak.

The property at 30-55 Vernon Blvd., which Eastone 26 Ave LLC bought for $8.2 million last year, is now up for sale again and there have been offers of around $35 million, said Stephen Preuss of real estate firm Massey Knakal, which is marketing the site.

At that price, the property would trade for nearly $230 per buildable square foot, which would rank among the top land prices in Astoria. This would mean that prospective owners would most likely focus on a residential development to cover the purchase price and maximize profits, Preuss said.

Currently, a warehouse and parking lot occupy the 37,116-square-foot site, enough to erect a structure with 140,665 buildable square feet.

If air rights from the adjacent residential properties were purchased or a rezoning occured, the property could have up to 220,000 buildable square feet, Preuss said.

Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

30-55 Vernon Blvd. Photo courtesy of Scott Bintner/PropertyShark

Preuss imagined the best use for the site would be a mixed-use development with ground-floor retail, an office or event space on the second floor, and condos on the remaining floors.

“This area is quickly emerging and the site holds immediate value with its waterfront location along with the benefit of several local mega-projects underway,” Preuss said.

The Astoria waterfront has been scorching hot recently with planned projects like the enormous Astoria Cove, which received the green light from the City Council last month, and the Durst Organization’s Hallets Point project.

Rendering courtesy of 2030 Astoria Developers

Astoria Cove. Rendering courtesy of 2030 Astoria Developers

In addition to those projects, construction is planned next year for a glassy 77-condo building by developer New York Lions Group not far from the waterfront.

Also, in October developer Shibber Khan paid $57 million for a waterfront site at 11-12 30th Dr, which has 460,000 buildable square feet. It is located just a block south of the Eastone 26 Ave LLC property.

Rendering courtesy of New York Lions Group

Rendering courtesy of New York Lions Group

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Bill introduced to City Council calling for term limits for community boards


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

A new bill that was set to be introduced in the City Council Wednesday calls for putting term limits on community board members appointed in mid-2016 or later.

Councilman Daniel Dromm, who is one of the initial sponsors of the bill, was set to introduce legislation in the Council’s Government Operations Committee that would establish term limits for community board members.

Currently under law there is no limit to the number of consecutive two-year terms board members could either be appointed to or serve.

If the new bill were to pass, those appointed for a first term starting April 1, 2016, or after would only be allowed to serve twelve years, or six consecutive terms.

Under the proposed bill, a board member such as former Community Board 2 chair Joseph Conley would not have been able to serve the almost three decades he had under his belt.

Dromm told the Gotham Gazette that just how communities change, he believes community boards should, too. Although he “applauds” and thanks those who serve 30 or 40 years on a board, he added that he thinks they “need to move things around.”

Community boards have up to 50 voting members. Votes by community boards are non-binding, but they often carry influence with elected officials.

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Con Edison admin appointed next Real Estate Board of New York president 


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Real Estate Board of New York

A top Con Edison exec and former City Council chief of staff will take the helm as the next president of the Real Estate Board of New York (REBNY), the organization announced Tuesday.

John Banks, vice president of government relations at Con Edison, will officially begin his new position next year after the current president, Steven Spinola, steps down.

Spinola, who has lead the association for three decades as its longest-serving president, believes Banks is a solid choice for the future of REBNY.

“I look forward to some busy months ahead as we continue to pursue a pro-growth agenda for the city while ensuring the smoothest possible transition at REBNY,” Spinola said. “I couldn’t be more optimistic about the future of this organization under John’s guidance.”

Banks is coming to REBNY after 13 years at Con Edison, where up until recently he lead a staff of 38 employees to manage government and community affairs.

Banks severed as chief of staff for the City Council speaker from 2000 to 2002 before taking his role at Con Edison.

And prior to that, Banks, who has an economics and government bachelor’s degree from Manhattan College and a master’s in public administration from Baruch College, was deputy director of the City Council’s finance division.

Banks sits on a number of boards for various organizations, including the MTA, the New York Public Library and Manhattan College. He served as a member of Mayor de Blasio’s transition committee.

“I look forward to working with the leadership of REBNY, its members, staff, the community and New York’s elected officials,” Banks said. “It is an honor to follow in Steve’s tremendous footsteps and build upon his accomplishments.”

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City Council passes Astoria Cove development project


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

The City Council voted overwhelmingly to approve the Astoria Cove mega development on Tuesday, clearing the way for the major land use project.

The project now goes to Mayor Bill de Blasio for his likely approval. He has already praised the project after concessions were made by the developer to boost the amount of affordable housing included. He has five days to either sign or veto the measure.

Earlier in the month, Astoria Cove developers delayed the City Council Land Use Committee vote to strike a last-minute deal with elected officials concerned about having enough affordable housing in order to win committee support for the project.

Now more than 460 units of the 1,723 total apartments throughout the 2.2-million-square-foot project on the Astoria waterfront will be affordable housing.

Developers also agreed to hire union labor for construction and building maintenance jobs associated with the project, and commit to building a ferry dock.

“This agreement shows what we can achieve when the private and public sectors work together,” Astoria Councilman Costa Constantinides said. “This agreement provides real benefits to the neighborhood and will help further link our booming communities along the East River.”

Astoria Cove will 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 anticipated 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, a school and some retail.

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Astoria Cove wins City Council committee support after last minute deal


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Astoria Cove developers delayed the City Council Land Use Committee vote on Wednesday to strike a last minute deal with politicians and win approval for the project.

Based on the agreement, the number of below-market rate housing in the development will increase to 27 percent from 20 percent. About 468 units of the 1,723 total apartments throughout the 2.2 million square foot project on the Astoria waterfront will be deemed affordable.

Developers also agreed to hire union labor for construction and building maintenance jobs associated with the project, and commit to building a ferry dock.

Councilman Costa Constantinides, who promised to fight for more affordable housing units, fully embraced the project following the deal.

“The agreement will help transform Astoria for the better,” Constantinides said. “For the first time in city history, this developer will be required by law to provide permanently affordable housing that is within the reach of Astorians.”

The project still has to go through a full City Council vote on Nov. 25.

In addition to the Land Use Committee giving its approval, Borough President Melinda Katz has also had a change of heart due to the negotiations.

“The modified Astoria Cove proposal is consistent with Queens’ commitment to responsible development and is now closer to par with many of our chief concerns, namely housing, transit options and skilled labor,” Katz said in a statement. “Once built, this project will become a landmark accomplishment that we can be proud of here in the Borough of Queens.”

Astoria Cove will 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 anticipated 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, a school and some retail.

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Real estate roundup: City and Astoria Cove developers at odds ahead of Council vote


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Old Politics Hamper City’s New Approach on Affordable Housing

“The 2.2-million-square-foot project is at risk of being voted down by the City Council’s land-use committee, which must vote by Wednesday on it, according to City Council officials and the developer. The full council is expected to follow the committee’s lead.” Read more [The Wall Street Journal]

Residents told to repay aid funds given to them two years ago

“The disabled, elderly and mostly poor residents of an assisted-living center in Queens spent four miserable months in shelters after Hurricane Sandy, and now they’re getting hammered again — by the federal government.” Read more [The New York Post]

Quiet Island, With Change Coming

“When Yarin and Talia Katz first came to the United States from Israel, they spent a year sampling various parts of New York City and New Jersey with monthly rentals. In 2011, when they were ready to settle down, Mr. Katz said, ‘We pretty much knew we wanted to move to Roosevelt Island.’” Read more [The New York Times]

 

 

Astoria Cove criticizers hosting another City Hall rally ahead of Council meeting


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Opposition to the Astoria Cove development isn’t going down without a fight as a City Council meeting for the project draws near.

Build Up NYC, which advocates for building service workers union 32BJ, is hosting a rally against the development outside City Hall on Wednesday at 4 p.m.

Hundreds of construction and building maintenance workers and Astoria residents are expected to turn out, hoping to urge the Council to vote against the land-use application for the project as it currently stands.

The Council is set to hold a review session on the project on Monday, Oct. 20, in the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises.

The advocacy organization believes the plan does not offer enough affordable housing and is also fighting for more jobs for unionized workers. The project calls for 345 units or 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings to be affordable housing.

Despite Community Board 2 and Borough President Melinda Katz also opposing the project because of the lack of affordable housing, the City Planning Commission gave the project the green light last month with a majority vote.

Councilman Costa Constantinides reportedly agrees the project needs more affordable housing and that some of the low-income apartments are too expensive.

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Real estate roundup: Advocates urge City Council to scrutinize Astoria Cove, USTA files for new tennis stadium


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Council members urged to scrutinize Astoria Cove deal

“Advocates are urging City Council members to reject the proposed Astoria Cove housing development in Queens unless the developer increases the amount of affordable housing.

“The 1700-apartment project was approved by the City Planning Commission last week and now goes to the Council, which is likely to demand changes before approving it. So far, the developer, Alma Realty, has promised that 20% of the units will be affordable.” Read more [New York Daily News]

Renderings courtesy of the United States Tennis Association

Rendering courtesy of the United States Tennis Association

USTA files for new 25,000 SF stadium

“The USTA National Tennis Center has filed applications for a double-deck and nearly 25,000 square-foot tennis stadium at 121-22 Roosevelt Avenue, in Flushing Meadows; Rossetti is designing.” Read more [New York YIMBY]

Ramen restaurant to open on Vernon Blvd

“The owner of an Astoria ramen restaurant is opening a location on Vernon Boulevard. The restaurant, which is expected to be called Tamashii Blue, will be located 47-36 Vernon Boulevard.” Read more [LIC Post]

Landlord forces three Greenpoint Avenue stores to close, property’s future is uncertain

“The face of Greenpoint Avenue—between 47th and 48th Streets—is going to change as three long-time stores are closing. King Boulevard, SSS Video and Azteca Restaurant have all been notified that they have to leave—as the owner of the property is selling it.” Read more [Sunnyside Post]

Doe Fund to continue cleaning the streets of Rego Park, Kew Gardens, Forest Hills


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz's office.

The streets of central Queens will continue to shine.

Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz announced Wednesday that she secured $123,000 to renew The Doe Fund services to clean up the streets of select parts of Rego Park, Kew Gardens and Forest Hills, according to the councilwoman’s office.

The Doe Fund, a nonprofit organization, which employs recently homeless or formerly incarcerated people and is also in other parts of Queens, cleans the sidewalks and picks up the trash on Austin Street and Continental Avenue in Forest Hills. In Rego Park, workers maintain the area from 63rd Drive to Alderton Street along Queens Boulevard. And in Kew Gardens and Forest Hills they are on Metropolitan Avenue from Lefferts Boulevard to Woodhaven Boulevard.

“I am so pleased that we are able to continue using The Doe Fund,” Koslowitz said. “Commercial strips are being cleaned by men and women who are transitioning from difficult circumstances to productive lives. This is a win-win situation for everyone.”

Tiebreaker Productions, a musical concerts promoter at the West Side Tennis Club, donated an extra $27,122 to the Doe Fund.

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Astoria Cove gets green light from City Planning Commission


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Despite opposition from residents, the community board and Borough President Melinda Katz, the Astoria Cove development won over the City Planning Commission.

The 2.2-million-square-foot project along the Astoria waterfront cleared a major hurdle Monday as the commission voted to approve its land-use application despite the push back from community members with a majority vote of 10 yes, two abstentions and one partial no.

“We are pleased by the outcome. And we are looking forward to working with Councilman Constantinides and the City Council and going forward with the process,” said Howard Weiss of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, which represents 2030 Astoria Developers, the team behind the project. “This project heralds a new era in affordable housing. It’s a great step forward in terms of the mayor’s 10-year housing plan.”

The partial no-vote centered on claims of insufficiency of affordable housing in the application. Community Board 2, Katz and others that opposed the project also called for more affordable housing to be included in the buildings, while developers are proposing 345 units or 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings.

Members of the building services union 32BJ were displeased by the result and pledged to fight at the City Council level for more affordable housing and unionized jobs.

“Alma Realty should not be granted permission to develop Astoria Cove until they commit to responsible development,” said Lenore Friedlaender, executive director of Build Up NYC, a coalition of organizations that includes 32BJ. “We will continue to fight for the good jobs and affordable housing working families in Astoria need to grow and strengthen the middle class, and we look forward to engaging the entire City Council to make sure this gets done right.”

Astoria Cove will 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.

Recently 2030 Astoria Developers purchased the remaining land needed for the project for more than $43 million.

The City Council has 50 days to vote on the application, and affordable housing will be one of the main subjects reviewed.

“While the new housing stock is sorely needed, the development must work for all Astorians,” Constantinides said. “When the project comes before the City Council, we will work with the developer and focus on providing ample affordable housing, dramatically increasing public transportation capacity on and off of the peninsula, and keeping the development within the fabric of the community.”

 

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Parks Department collecting bids to reconstruct Astoria’s Paul Raimonda Playground


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Department of Parks and Recreation 

The Parks Department started collecting bids Tuesday to renovate Astoria’s Paul Raimonda Playground and expects to begin construction in the spring of 2015.

The project, which was announced last year and received $1.56 million from the City Council and the mayor’s office, includes removing the bocce courts, adding adult fitness equipment, repairing the flag pole base, relocating the seating area, replacing play equipment, installing new planting beds and repaving asphalt areas throughout the playground located on 20th Avenue between 47th and 48th streets.

Also, to give the park a more local touch, the children’s spray shower in the park will be reconstructed in the shape of a baby grand piano, to pay homage to Steinway & Sons, the piano manufacturer that is located a few blocks away.

Renovation of the park will also address drainage issues, by surrounding trees with plant beds instead of existing cobblestones.

Paul Raimonda was a community leader and life-long resident of nearby Long Island City. He attended William C. Bryant High School and served four years in the Army Air Corps during World War II, according the Parks Department.

The bids are due back by Oct. 22.

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Vallone allocates $68K for Doe Fund to clean Bayside, College Point


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Councilman Paul Vallone allocated $68,000 to contract The Doe Fund to clean up the streets, according to the councilman’s spokesman.

As part of the 2015 council budget, Vallone was given the money to spend on cleaning initiatives in Bayside and the surrounding neighborhoods within his council district, according to a spokesman for Vallone. And he plans on concentrating cleaning efforts on College Point Boulevard in College Point and Bell Boulevard in Bayside, where The Doe Fund will be charged with power washing the sidewalks, sweeping the sidewalks and replacing trash bins.

“Clean sidewalks and litter-free streets are a big part of our quality of life,” Vallone said. “The money allocated for The Doe Fund will go a long way to beautifying and maintaining College Point Boulevard and Bell Boulevard, two of the most important and widely used commercial strips in my district.“

According to Vallone’s spokesman, College Point Boulevard between 14th and 23rd avenues is in particular need of cleaning because of the stained, blackened sidewalks and the abundance of litter. Another spot that they will be concentrating on is Bell Boulevard between 35th Avenue to 45th Drive.

The Doe Fund’s street cleaning crews, made up of formerly homeless or recently incarcerated men, will start the cleaning job on Oct. 1 and continue until June 30, 2015. According to Vallone’s spokesman, there will be four workers covering the areas three days a week.

The Doe Fund’s presence is now in 10 Council districts in Queens, which is up from six in 2013. The increase in the crew’s services comes after the City Council approved $3.5 million for cleaning initiatives.

Vallone is scheduled to hold a press conference on Monday, Sept. 22, to announce the cleaning initiative with Doe’s founder, George McDonald.

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Renderings reveal look of new P.S./I.S. 314 school in Jamaica


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy Department of Education


The School Construction Authority posted renderings of P.S./I.S. 314 in Jamaica, giving residents a glimpse into the future of a new school in the neighborhood. 

The school, which will be located on the corner of 164th Street and Hillside Avenue, is just one of many coming to the borough in the next few years to target overcrowding. It was approved by the City Council in 2011.

It will be four stories and approximately 113,092 square feet, according to city filings, and accommodate more than 830 students, from pre-K through the eighth-grade. It is expected to open in September 2015.

Gruzen Samton Architects of IBI Group designed the building, which is shaped like an “L” and organized into two main components: a four-story academic wing with classrooms, offices, a cafeteria and library, and a three-story public assembly wing, which houses the gymnasium and an auditorium.

To see more renderings of the project click here.

 

 

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Community board votes on proposed Astoria Cove development


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Rendering Courtesy STUDIO V Architecture

A local community board has told developers if they want to move forward with a proposed development on the Astoria waterfront, they had better pay attention to the board’s suggestions.

One week after Architect Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture presented the approximately 1.7-million-square-foot mixed-use development known as Astoria Cove to Community Board (CB) 1, board members voted against the proposal unless developers follow recommendations given by the board.

“We have put down in writing the recommendations that we think will help improve the situation there and will make the Astoria west area productive and really something to be proud of in our community district,” said Elizabeth Erion, assistant chair of CB1’s zoning and variance committee.

The four pages of conditions included an increase of affordable housing units from 20 percent to 35 percent dispersed throughout all five buildings of the site and be included in every construction phase; increase of parking spaces; priority of construction and permanent jobs given to local residents and youth; commercial space set aside for recreational and medical facilities; and the importance of the 456-seat public elementary school constructed at the site.

The proposed Astoria Cove by developers Alma Realty 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.

Howard Weiss, attorney for Alma Realty, said his clients are happy the community board did not raise objections to the project and most of the conditions presented have already been changed. He said that developers will be submitting revisions to the proposal.

“[The community board] had some concerns and they expressed those concerns,” Weiss said. “But the important thing is that if you listen carefully to their vote they support the project itself.”

Although Weiss said developers are working with Department of City Planning to increase the number of affordable housing units, 35 percent would not be “realistic.”

“We are working with City Planning to increase the number of affordable units to what would be a realistically and economically viable affordable housing density,” he said.

The Astoria Cove proposal will now head to the borough president and make its way to the City Council by the late fall.

 

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Community expresses concerns about Astoria Cove development


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Renderings Courtesy STUDIO V Architecture

The process to bring an approximately 1.7-million-square-foot mixed-use development to the Astoria waterfront got off to a bumpy start as developers presented their proposal to the local community board.

Architect Jay Valgora of STUDIO V Architecture presented the proposed development known as Astoria Cove to Community Board (CB) 1 Tuesday night as the first step in the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) for the project.

“Today this waterfront is not accessible,” Valgora said. “It’s really not an amenity or asset for the community and we would like to tie that back in and create a wonderful extension to the community.”

The proposed Astoria Cove by developers Alma Realty 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 and 456-seat public elementary school.

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, featuring a waterfront esplanade, children’s playground for various ages and streetscape design through the site.

“We think it’s just going to bring life and activity to this neighborhood,” Valgora said.

However the project was met with concerns from community board members who brought up issues of safety, handicap accessibility, affordable housing, parking, a medical center at the site, and construction and permanent jobs.

Along with the board members, more than 50 people signed up to speak on the project including members of Build Up NYC, an alliance of construction and building service workers. The alliance called on the community board to recommend Alma Realty ensure good and safe jobs with fair wages and benefits, protect workers and the community by removing asbestos and other toxins, create opportunities for local residents and much more.

“Alma Realty has an opportunity to create good, safe jobs with priority hiring for local residents and opportunities for local businesses,” said Gary LaBarbera, president of Build Up NYC. “But they haven’t made a commitment to do so. We need good jobs and affordable housing to keep the middle class strong.”

One of the main concerns shared by speakers was the number of affordable housing units at Astoria Cove. The site is expected to have 295 affordable housing units throughout the entire site, down from initially reported 340 units.

“We might be middle class but we’re not idiots and we can see the writing on the wall; we are not wanted at Astoria Cove,” said Astoria resident Tyler Ocon. “The community board is the first line of defense now against these underhanded tactics. Without the originally promised affordable housing units and a guarantee that these units will remain forever affordable, this project will be the first gust of wind that ships Astoria’s middle and working class up the East River.”

Howard Weiss, attorney for Alma Realty, said developers are in talks with the Department of City Planning to increase the number of units but will not have the number in time for the community board’s decision.

Residents also said they are concerned the development would increase rents, pushing out those currently living in the community.

On the other end, some speakers expressed excitement on the idea of the economic benefits and opportunities of the development. Both Jack Friedman, executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce, and Brian McCabe, COO of New York Water Taxi, spoke on the possibility of a ferry terminal being located at the site.

After the last speaker took the podium, CB 1 Chair Vinicio Donato said the board’s land use committee would vote on the proposal the following week. If the board approves it, the proposal will head to the borough president and make its way to the City Council by the late fall.

“Remember, the key word is recommendation. We have no authority to force anyone to do anything,” Donato said.

 

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