Tag Archives: Astoria Cove

Council member slams Astoria Cove project in hearing


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

A member of the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises called the affordable housing portion of the Astoria Cove project “a joke.”

Councilman Antonio Reynoso joined the choir of critics against the affordable housing portion of the mega development in the council’s public hearing on Monday.

Other public officials such as Astoria Councilman Costa Constatinides and Public Advocate Letitia James also emphasized that the proposed units for low-income residents aren’t enough.

Representatives for the team of developers on the project have boasted that the project is leading the way in affordable housing with a proposed 20 percent or 345 units of the 1,723 dwellings put aside for low-income residents.

But Reynoso, referencing former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s voluntary 80/20 program, in which 20 percent of units in new developments are reserved for affordable housing in return for benefits, told Astoria Cove project representatives, “What you’re doing is not unprecedented in any way, shape or form; 80/20 without subsidies is a joke. That’s the old standard.”

Reynoso also said that the rates for affordable housing units should be adjusted to better fit Astoria residents, which Constantinides has also previously said.

The team of representatives for 2030 Astoria Developers, the group behind the project, couldn’t answer Reynoso’s question about the average income of residents in Community Board 1, who will have preference to the affordable housing units.

“You guys said that you’ve been working with the community for four years, working very closely with the entire community for four years and you can’t tell me how much Astoria residents make in a year,” Reynoso said. “That’s not four years of work.”

Reynoso also asked how the size of the units in the affordable housing sections compare with the size of Astoria families, many of which need two- or three-bedroom apartments. Again, the representatives couldn’t respond.

“When one master-plans the development, especially of this size, one never plans the unit-mix breakdown at this stage,” a representative said at the hearing. “It’s never part of the planning process.”

Reynoso said he will not vote for the project’s current proposal, and said, “There is no chance this is going to move through.”

Numerous affordable housing supporters in the audience waved their hands whenever increasing the ratio of low-income units was mentioned.

Advocates in support of union jobs and residents from other properties of Alma Realty, the lead developer, were also at the meeting to speak out against the firm.

Among those speaking in favor of the project was Jack Friedman, the executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

“The Queens Chamber of Commerce believes this project is and will be a great addition for our borough and for Astoria,” Friedman said. “We wholeheartedly endorse and support the project and the many advantages it will present for the local community for generations to come.”

Despite the level of opposition to the current proposal of the project, the City Planning Commission gave its approval last month. Constantinides has pledged to get more affordable housing before the City Council votes.

“As the process moves toward our November vote, we will work with the developer to provide ample affordable housing, good jobs both during and after the construction process, and dramatically increase public transportation options on and off of the peninsula,” he said.

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Real estate roundup: Transformation of Jamaica, Brooklyn residents join Astoria Cove protests


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre 

Luxury Residence Among Buildings Changing the Face of Jamaica

Jamaica, once an overlooked and crime-ridden area in Southeast Queens, has been undergoing a transformation into a vibrant neighborhood, with a slew of new upscale apartment buildings, hotels and stores.” Read more [DNAinfo]

Battered bulkheads and seawall spell danger for some Rockaway residents

“Jamaica Bay’s crumbling seawalls are putting some Queens residents in jeopardy of flooding. City Councilman Donovan Richards and other officials called on the city to repair Hurricane Sandy-damaged bulkheads in order to protect Arverne streets and homes from the bay’s deluge.” Read more [New York Daily News]

Protesters Link a Queens Project to Brooklyn Rents

“Negotiations over the fate of Astoria Cove, the first new city development to opt into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing program, have attracted no shortage of advocates and critics hoping to influence the process.” Read more [New York Times]

Borough Keeping Buildings Department Busy

“It seems that Queens continues to keep the city Department of Buildings very busy. That was the story Tuesday night at the Community Board 9 meeting as DOB officials detailed how active the borough is with complaints, inspections and penalties.” Read more [The Forum]

 

 

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]

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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Astoria Cove developers pay $43.5 million for remaining land


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

Astoria Cove developers recently finalized the sale for the final bits of the land designated for the mega project, although they have yet to win any steps in the project’s land use case.

In the transaction, 2030 Astoria Developers LLC, the group behind the 2.2-million-square-foot project, bought four lots from Superior Steel Studs Inc. for $40.02 million, according to city records filed on Monday. The lots’ addresses are 8-51, 8-01, 4-55 and 4-57 26th Ave.

An additional lot on 4-34 26th Avenue was bought for $3.48 million from Rayan Realty Corp., according to city records.

The developers now own all properties associated with the project, according to Howard Weiss of Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, which represents the team of developers led by Queens-based Alma Realty.

However, the project still has to clear its Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) case. The City Planning Commission plans to hold a meeting on Sept. 29 about its decision on the proposal. Weiss said they are confident they’ll receive the commission’s blessing.

“I believe the City Planning Commission will approve the project as proposed with respect to the affordable housing and with respect to all the [aspects] of the Astoria Cove project,” Weiss said. “The reason why I feel confident is because the Astoria Cove project is consistent with the mayor’s housing plan.”

But most opponents of the development are hoping to see a change in the affordable housing part of the proposal.

Various coalition members and residents testified against the development in a City Planning Commission public hearing in August, calling for the project to include at least 50 percent affordable housing, while developers are proposing 345 units or 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings.

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

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 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.

Following the commission’s decision, the proposal will go to the City Council.

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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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Borough president rejects Astoria Cove proposal


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy STUDIO V Architecture


And that’s strike two for the massive Astoria Cove proposal.

Following a Community Board 1 ruling against it, Borough President Melinda Katz rejected the 1.76 million-square-foot mixed-use waterfront development on Thursday after a public hearing earlier in the month.

In her decision, Katz echoed the community’s concerns of traffic congestion that the project would cause and the impact of the already “insufficient” public transit. She urged developer Alma Realty to increase affordable housing units to 35 percent from the proposed 20 percent of the 1,723 dwellings. Katz also suggested that a proposed 456-seat elementary school, which is expected to be built in the final phase of the project, be constructed earlier.

“The proposed redevelopment of the Astoria Cove site would revitalize an otherwise underutilized Queens waterfront,” Katz said in the recommendation. “However, in bringing hundreds of new residents into Astoria, the needs and concerns of the existing residents…. And the overall well being of the borough and New York City must also be addressed. At this time there are still outstanding issues with this project.”

THE COURIER/File photo

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.

Community Board 1 voted against the proposal in June, and also suggested that the developer make some changes to their plan.

The board’s conditions included some of Katz’s recommendations, and also asked for an increase in parking spaces, commercial space set aside for recreational and medical facilities, and priority of construction and permanent jobs for local residents and youth.

The next step for the Astoria Cove proposal is a revision and vote by the City Planning Commission on Wednesday and then a vote by the City Council.

Councilman Costa Constantinides shares the concerns of the Borough President and the board, and said he may not back the project.

“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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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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Astoria and LIC among Queens stops recommended for East River Ferry expansion


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the East River Ferry

Queens could be the big winner from an expansion of the East River Ferry service if the city can find a spare $80 million to expand existing infrastructure and a private ferry company willing to pony up $10 million a year to run it.

The New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) released its preliminary 2013 Citywide Ferry Study earlier this week, in which it considered 58 potential new ferry stops, including some based on community recommendations, for the East River.

In the end, the NYCEDC recommended 11 possible spots. The areas in Queens include Astoria Cove, Long Island City North, and Beach 108th and 116th Street in the Rockaways, according to the report. Ferry service was also recommended looked into for LaGuardia Airport.

“In the span of only a few years, ferry service has become an integral part of the City’s transportation infrastructure, serving millions of passengers and providing momentum for continued development along the City’s waterfront,” said NYCEDC President Kyle Kimball.

According to the report, these new routes would require “considerable capital and operating subsidies” and an expanded new network featuring the East River Ferry and the additional routes would require “an annual subsidy for weekday service of close to $10 million.”

The potential new stops would also require additional capital investment to construct docking stations which feature shelters, ticketing machines, benches, bike racks, and two-slip or single-slip barges.

Following the recent study, the possible ferry service expansion proposal will now be reviewed by local elected officials, leaders, private ferry companies and the community at large in order to discuss the specific new routes and how to fund them.

Currently the only East River Ferry stop in Queens is by Hunter’s Point South Park in Long Island City between 54th Avenue and 2nd Street.

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