Tag Archives: borough president melinda katz

Kew Gardens Hills synagogues experience growing pains


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Nicholas Strini/PropertyShark

The large and expanding Jewish community in Kew Gardens Hills has fueled the need for synagogue expansions, according to religious leaders, but some projects hinge on special permits which aren’t always easy to obtain.

In the latest batch of synagogues seeking variances, Community Board 8 will host a public hearing on Monday, Oct. 27, regarding a structural expansion of one place of worship and special operational permits for another. This comes after the board denied an application in June for expansion of a third synagogue, which is still hoping to get approval from the Board of Standards and Appeals in an upcoming vote.

The congregation of Torath Haim Ohel Sara at 144-11 77th Ave. is hoping the community board approves changes to an extant variance to allow it to operate without the lawfully required amount of space in its front, side and rear yards. They also request an extension of time to operate without a certificate of occupancy.

But this property, which is also undergoing construction, has Buildings Department violations for ignoring a stop-work order, according to city records, and has accrued penalties totaling nearly $100,000. Calls for comment from the synagogue were not returned.

A synagogue Just a block away, in a two-story building at 147-02 76th Rd., will also come before the board, hoping to get approval to add a floor to make room for a school and an office for the rabbi.

Isak Ambramov of Sharey Tefilah Synagogue initially applied for a brand-new three-story building in 2010 on the site and architectural firm Gerald Caliendo was slated to design it. However, the Buildings Department disapproved the plans, city records show.

And there hasn’t been any movement on the expansion application of Sephardic Congregation at 141-41 72nd Ave.

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The community board denied its appeal for a variance to expand to three floors in June, after community residents strongly opposed it due to the potential increase of noise and garbage along with 15 existing Building Department violations. The application then went to Borough President Melinda Katz for a public hearing later in the month.

Community Board 8 District Manager Marie Adam-Ovide told The Courier she has not heard from Borough Hall as yet on that variance.

The borough president’s “recommendation is still being worked on,” according to a spokesman from Katz’s office, who said it would not be coming out Thursday, but did not have a definitive time frame beyond that point.

The Board of Standards and Appeals has the final say on all the applications.

The community board hearing will be held at Parsons Junior High School, 158-40 76th Rd., at 7:30 p.m.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens Restaurant Week holds preview event at Atlas Park


| slicata@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Queens Economic Development Corporation /Gallery photos by Salvatore Licata

Queens Restaurant Week kicked off on Monday with an outdoor extravaganza at The Shops at Atlas Park as participants gave out free samples of their goods.

More than 200 establishments are participating in Queens Restaurant Week, which will see most restaurants offering three-course prix fixe dinners for $28 and lunch for $14.

“One of the reasons we are known as ‘The World’s Borough’ is that our amazing diversity allows us to offer an incredible variety of the best dishes from around the world,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who was at the kickoff. “Queens Restaurant Week is a great way to highlight this fact and encourage both borough residents and visitors to enjoy some of this outstanding cuisine. I hope everyone will take advantage of this great opportunity to enjoy some really amazing food.”

Twelve eateries along with the Queens Brewery participated in the kickoff, including Bourbon Street, Il Falco, Austin’s Ale House, Shiro of Japan, Trattoria Cerbone, Fiamma 41, O’Neill’s of Maspeth, California Pizza Kitchen, Room 55, Deluge, Agora Tavern and Neir’s.

“This gives us the opportunity for people to recognize there are really, really cool places in Queens that can rival any other place in the city,” said Loycent Gordon of Neir’s restaurant.

The 11th Annual Queens Restaurant Week officially begins on Monday, Oct. 13, and restaurants in almost 30 neighborhoods across the borough will be participating.

“It was a really incredible experience to meet new perspective customers and interact with other local businesses. There was a good presence of people who were excited to try out some new restaurants,” said Frank Tramontano, general manager of Fiamma 41, located at 214-26 41st Avenue in Bayside. “This is our first year participating in Queens Restaurant Week. We are very excited to be able to welcome new customers that may have never noticed that we were here.”

Cuisines of every variety, such as French, Greek, Uruguayan, Italian and Salvadoran foods and so many others, will be on offer.

“This is NYC’s most delicious bargain, as there truly is something for every taste bud,” said Queens Economic Development Corporation Executive Director Seth Bornstein. ”Plus, it fits in perfectly with the Queens Tourism Council’s mission to inform on the borough’s wonderful places to eat, shop, enjoy culture and have family fun.”

Restaurant week is something that will help Queens show off what it has to offer, state Sen. Joe Addabbo said.

“Queens Restaurant Week is a time to show what we have to offer as a borough,” Addabbo said. “This helps our local economy and when the business and store owners do well so do the residents.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Sunnyside Yards development back in discussion with possible study


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Jim Henderson/ Wikipedia Commons

The space above the Sunnyside Yards railroad complex could contain a hospital, affordable housing buildings, a school, a public space or some combination of those to form a new community.

At this point, Community Board 2 isn’t sure what could be built, but members approved urging Borough President Melinda Katz to begin a feasibility study regarding “decking,” or building a platform above the railroad tracks, in a public meeting Thursday — a plan that has long been floated around by top city officials.

Board chair Joseph Conley brought the matter up in the meeting for a vote, even though he wasn’t sure how much square footage of space the area would create and couldn’t pinpoint future challenges.

However, he suggested the project would cover just the Long Island City end of the yards —the southwest portion from about Jackson Avenue and 21st Street eastward to either the Thomson Avenue or Queens Boulevard walk-overs.

Photo courtesy of Bing Maps

Photo courtesy of Bing Maps

Some members complained that creating more housing in the area would increase the need for public services and infrastructure.

But Conley reasoned that it would be good to explore the ability to use the space, especially for affordable housing, as land prices continue to shoot upward in nearby communities such as Long Island City.

“There are a lot of things that have to be discussed: transportation of course, traffic, schools, all the things that we live with… but at least it starts the dialogue to say what if,” Conley said. “And that’s exactly what we did on Hunter’s Point South.

The 167-acre Sunnyside Yards is owned by Amtrak and shared with the LIRR and NJ Transit. The MTA is working on its East Side Access project at the railroad complex, which will connect the LIRR to a new station beneath Grand Central Terminal.

Plans concerning decking over the yards for development have been discussed in the past. The site was included in New York City’s Olympic bid in 1997, according to the Regional Planning Association, an urban research group.

Also, Daniel Doctoroff, former deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, had a city planning team conduct an analysis of the possibility for decking and development over Sunnyside Yards.

But whether this new study will lead to a development is still up in the air.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Queens Library struggling from space constraints, report says


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Queens Library

Increasing space for users at Queens Library branches could begin a new chapter in its history, after a new study found most locations are struggling from space constraints.

The news comes days after the library’s CEO Tom Galante was suspended by the board of trustees, following a series of published reports revealing his nearly $400,000 salary, benefits, and erection of a smoking deck outside his office in Central Library, while making employee cuts.

The Center for an Urban Future released Monday the Re-Envisioning New York’s Branch Libraries report, which said 41 of the library’s 62 branches are under 10,000 square feet and struggling to meet the demands of its increasing membership. Queens had the most branches under that size in the five boroughs. Brooklyn came in second with 26 branches.

About 11.2 million people visited Queens Library branches in fiscal year 2014, according to statistics on the library’s website, and there were 929,000 active borrowers. The problem isn’t a need to repair libraries but adjust the layout, according to the report.

“It’s not just that so many New York City libraries are old and in a state of disrepair, many are not configured to meet the needs of today’s users,” the study said. “Designed around their book collections, many devote a majority of their layouts to shelves and rooms for book processing.”

The report specifically identified the Fresh Meadows library branch as one of the more well-attended branches in the city, but only has 8,700 square feet of space. That branch and the Far Rockaway, Lefferts, Rego Park and Sunnyside locations are five of the 10 “highest performing branches citywide” that are in need of more space.

“These well-attended branches would undoubtedly attract significantly more patrons for programs if they had more space for them,” the report said.

But some libraries just don’t have enough seating, such as the Jackson Heights branch, which has more than 375,000 annual visitors, but can only seat 78 people.

In its defense, Interim Queens Library President and CEO Bridget Quinn-Carey said that the library is currently engaging in many projects to expand its branches and meet its vast membership.

“Over the past several years, elected officials in Queens have done a great job of allocating funds to help Queens Library upgrade and maintain its facilities,” Quinn-Carey said. “As the report suggests, there is still so much more that we could be doing for the community if we had the space in which to do it. We look forward to working with public funders to establish a rational, forward-looking capital funding plan that gives libraries the resources they need to plan important capital investments.”

On a positive note, Queens has the newest libraries, according to the report. The borough ranks youngest in age, with the average library at just 47 years old. Manhattan is first with an average age of 84 years old. Also, six of the 15 new libraries in the past 20 years were branches in Queens.

Click here to read the full report.

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

Comrie defeats state Sen. Malcolm Smith in landslide


| slicata@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/ Photo by Salvatore Licata

Leroy Comrie is the de facto next state senator for District 14 after besting incumbent Malcolm Smith in the Democratic primary.

There is no Republican candidate for the seat in the upcoming November election.

Comrie, who previously represented part of the district on the City Council, ousted Smith, who is awaiting trial on federal corruption charges, in a landslide victory, earning 69.4 percent of the votes, according to unofficial results.

“I’m excited about being able to serve [District 14] in the state Senate. I was overwhelmed by the reaction from the community,” Comrie said. “It’s a gratifying win. It’s a real testament to the power of the community.”

Political supporters, such as Councilman Daneek Miller and Borough President Melinda Katz, were at Comrie’s victory party to cheer him on.

Most recently, Comrie was the deputy borough president under Katz; he stepped down to run in the District 14 primary.

Smith, who has represented the district for over a decade, was indicted for allegedly trying to bribe his way into a GOP nomination for mayor.

The trial was thrown into turmoil when prosecutors produced hours of audiotapes — many in Yiddish — that Smith’s lawyers claimed would bolster his defense.
The judge declared a mistrial and a new trial is set for January.

But Smith’s tainted reputation was enough to sway several elected officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz, to endorse Comrie over Smith.

“I’m going to do my best to be an effective legislator,” Comrie noted. “I really have to get going and make sure that the residents of the 14th District can have the things they need in the budget starting in January. [District 14] means home to me.”

RECOMMENDED STORIES  

 

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.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

Katz denies appeals of sacked library trustees


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The six Queens Library trustees ousted by Borough President Melinda Katz have had their appeals for reinstatement shot down by Katz.

Douglas Grover, who represents the six trustees removed by Katz two weeks ago, said the trustees were notified by Katz’s office Tuesday evening of the rejection.

“After dismissing the Trustees, it’s hardly surprising that the Borough President rejected their appeal. It’s one more reason the Court must step in and halt the damage Ms. Katz has already done to the Library and the further damage that would surely follow,” Grover said.   “For more than a century the Library has provided excellent service to the community, free from political interference and favoritism. She wants to toss that aside, using an ill-conceived law that we believe is unconstitutional.

“The threat to the independence of the Queens Library should be of concern to every nonprofit group in New York and to every citizen.”

A voicemail left at Katz’s office Tuesday evening was not immediately returned.

Also on Tuesday, federal court Judge Roslynn Mauskopf denied a request by the sacked trustees for an immediate hearing on a temporary restraining order.

She wrote in her decision that the original suit, filed on Friday, was already granted an expedited schedule and that it made no mention of the appeals process.

“Plaintiffs have failed to provide any factual or legal basis from which the Court can glean the impact, if any, of those appeals on the instant application, including their critical impact on the analysis of imminent harm as plaintiffs now argue,” Mauskopf wrote.

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

$2.45M upgrade set for Flushing’s troubled Bowne Park


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


After years of issues with garbage, dead wildlife and a lack of maintenance in Bowne Park, the green space in Flushing is set to receive a $2.45 million facelift.

Councilman Paul Vallone, whose district oversees the park, allocated $1.45 million in discretionary funds to upgrade the water fountains and filtration system in the pond of the nearly 12-acre park.

Residents complained in the past of the grimy pond, in which dead turtles reportedly have been found. The funds will also go to restore the asphalt pathways and lawn areas.

Borough President Melinda Katz will allocate an additional $1 million from her budget to the park to upgrade the playground, installing new play equipment with safety surfaces and benches.

“$2.45 million dollars will go a long way to restoring the natural resources of our precious park for wildlife, residents and neighborhood children alike,” said Robert Hanophy Jr., president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association.

Bowne Park is named for Walter Bowne, a New York City mayor in the 19th century, whose house stood on the land until 1925 when a fire destroyed the residence, according to the Parks Department.

The park is usually teeming with wildlife, including turtles, squirrels and various species of birds. Besides the pond, the park features two bocce courts, a basketball court and a playground with a sprinkler.

The revitalization of the park comes after a major project last year, in which the existing bocce court was renovated and a second court was added at the total cost of about $500,000. In 1994 the park underwent an $800,000 renovation, funded out of the budget of then Borough President Claire Schulman.

“Bowne Park has become an essential symbol of the quiet residential homes that surround the park,” Vallone said. “We promised to preserve the quality of life we cherish here in our communities and preserving and improving Bowne Park for decades to come is a testament to that promise.”

 

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

Street co-named for longtime Bayside school teacher


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy Office of Councilmember Paul Vallone


Family, friends and former students of longtime P.S. 41 science teacher Geri Cilmi attended a street co-naming in her honor outside the Bayside school on Friday.

The new Mrs. Geri Cilmi Place street sign was unveiled at 214th Lane behind the school. Cilmi, who died in 2011 after battling cancer for four years, taught at the school for about 25 years and was a teacher in city schools for about four decades.

During her time at P.S. 41 she was loved by colleagues and students for her extraordinary effort as a teacher. Cilmi hosted science nights in the school, where parents and students were able to do a variety of experiments. She applied for numerous grants for the school, including one from NASA for a weather station. She also set up the school’s garden, was vice president of the Elementary School Science Association (ESSA), and made various science presentations for children.

Photo courtesy Tom Cilmi

Cilmi lived in Flushing with her husband, Tom, and her son. Various elected officials, including Councilmember Paul Vallone, Borough President Melinda Katz and Congresswoman Grace Meng, were in attendance for the street co-naming ceremony.

“Mrs. Cilmi’s life was dedicated to teaching and showing her students that science was beyond the classroom,” Vallone said. “To co-name the street in front of the school where she spent over a decade is a fitting tribute to her career and tells the community Mrs. Cilmi will forever be in our hearts.”

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES 

LIC Summit to highlight booming western Queens neighborhood


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo: Peter Aaron/Esto. Courtesy of Museum of Moving Image

The various traits that contribute to the boom of Long Island City will be the talk of a day-long conference dedicated to the western Queens neighborhood.

The Long Island City Partnership, along with co-hosts Modern Spaces and The Queens Courier, will showcase the first LIC Summit, called “LIC Now: Perspectives and Prospects.” The day-long event will take place on Tuesday, June 17, at the Museum of the Moving Image, located at 36-01 35th Ave., starting at 8 a.m. and will be followed by a cocktail reception and networking at 4:30 p.m. at Kaufman Astoria Studios.

“The summit is intended to really highlight the incredible authentic mixed-use community that is Long Island City and it is important not just locally but citywide and nationwide,” said Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the LIC Partnership. “It’s also an opportunity to dive into the issues that are continuing challenges for the community and a moment to take stock on how we should plan for the future.”

The LIC Summit will highlight Long Island City’s real estate market, infrastructure, arts, cultural, television and film community, industrial sector and expected future as a technology hub.

“Long Island City is experiencing an explosive change right now and is a huge economic driver for not only western Queens, but the city as a whole,” said Eric Benaim, CEO and president of Modern Spaces. “This summit was created to address the ongoing and emerging trends and needs of this transformative neighborhood.”

The keynote address will be delivered by the city’s Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen, and other featured speakers include Borough President Melinda Katz, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer and many more.

“This is really meant to be a dialogue between the panelists with the audience. Everybody who is there is part of the content of the conference,” said Lusskin, who hopes the LIC Summit will become an annual event. “We really hope that we will have a really diverse and high quality audience that is both local constituents and citywide leaders.”

For more information and to register click here.

 

Below are the categories for the LIC Summit panels, which will each be moderated by experts and leaders in their industries.

Keynote Panel – LIC: Big City, Big Picture 9:15–10 a.m.

Services & Amenities: Current Successes, New Opportunities – 10:15-11 a.m.

Television & Film – 10:15-11 a.m.

Commercial & Industrial Real Estate
11:20 a.m.-noon

Keynote Speaker: Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen
1-1:45 p.m.

LIC as a Tech District – 2-2:45 p.m.

Residential Real Estate – 2-2:45 p.m.

Arts & Culture – 3-3:45 p.m.

 

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

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.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES

9th Annual Taste of LIC offers items from over 50 local restaurants


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

Photos by Dominick Totino Photography

Foodies made their way to the Long Island City waterfront to a get a taste of what the popular western Queens neighborhood has to offer.

The Chocolate Factory Theater presented the Ninth Annual Taste of LIC, a community-wide festival highlighting Long Island City’s culinary and cultural accomplishments, Tuesday at Gantry Plaza State Park.

FOR MORE PHOTOS CLICK HERE

This year’s celebration featured food and beverage tastings from 50 restaurants and auction and raffle prizes courtesy of 100 local Long Island City businesses. The event also featured a special performance by over 30 Sunnyside/Woodside Girl Scouts choreographed by Madeline Best.


Executive Director of The Chocolate Factory Theater Sheila Lewandowski and Borough President Melinda Katz

Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer served as Master of Ceremonies and “chocolate lover honored guests” included Borough President Melinda Katz, state Senator Michael Gianaris, Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney and Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan.

All of the event’s proceeds go toward The Chocolate Factory’s 2014-2015 season of dance, theater, music and multimedia performances.

 

RECOMMENDED STORIES