Tag Archives: Department of City Planning

Residents focus on affordable housing during Flushing West rezoning meeting


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alina Suriel

Community stakeholders attended an open house Wednesday night focused on the ongoing Department of City Planning rezoning study of the Flushing West area.

This was the second open house event held by the Department of City Planning for the Flushing West planning study. For most of the participating community members, the hottest topic of the night was affordable housing and how much of it would be available with an increase of residential development.

Hyun-Jung Kim — an engagement coordinator at the MinKwon Action Center, a Korean-American community-based organization — said the center’s biggest priority is to fight for the affordability of housing for the most vulnerable populations. This includes senior citizens struggling to remain in their homes, low-income families being priced out of the neighborhood and community members with limited English skills.

“I think the communities here in Queens are sometimes forgotten in conversations about the need for affordable housing. There are a lot of very vulnerable populations here,” Kim said. “We’re concerned when those folks might get swept under the carpet when Queens is just seen as a hot market, the next Brooklyn.”

John Choe, executive director of the Greater Flushing Chamber of Commerce, said that he believes changes in Flushing West are long overdue. According to Choe, many issues in the area — from transportation upgrades to affordable housing — have not been adequately addressed over the past two decades.

“Affordable housing, for example, that could have been addressed in many different ways much earlier by the city,” he said. “To me, the demand far outweighs the investment that the city has put in over the past 20 years of affordable housing, and that’s just one area.”

Ken Cohen, president of the NAACP’s Northeast Queens division, added that although the Flushing West planning study has shown that 71 percent of the target area is of Asian descent, there are still issues which concern his organization.

“Flushing is a diverse place where people of all colors and ethnic backgrounds live,” Cohen said. “Affordable residential housing is much needed, jobs are much needed, so there is a call for a number of things that we would like to see as the NAACP.”

While affordable housing is a priority for many of the forum’s attendees, there are also environmental factors involved in the Flushing West Planning Study.

Alexandra Rosa, consultant for Friends of Flushing Creek, was there to talk to representatives of the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) about increasing efforts to clean up Flushing Creek. According to Rosa, one billion gallons of raw sewage and stormwater runoff is dumped into the creek each year — and the group takes issue with a DEP plan that would continue the practice of releasing sewer overflows into the creek.

“Friends of Flushing Creek is committed to help publicize the need for and to get projects that will actually make Flushing Creek a recreation destination, and to clean up the pollutants,” Rosa said.

Information on the study’s progress can be found on the Department of City Planning website. The next open forum on the Flushing West study will reveal the results of public feedback received by Department of City Planning from previous open house events, and is planned for Aug. 20.

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West Flushing upzoning opens the door for new opportunities


| stephen.preuss@cushwake.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Angy Altamirano

In December, we discussed the Department of City Planning’s study of western Flushing upzoning which was highlighted in November by Planning Commissioner Carl Weisbrod.

Crain’s has recently reported that city officials have hired a nonprofit run by former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman to develop “residential buildings, transportation, parks, and retail and commercial space for 60 acres of industrial property along the western border of Flushing.”

Our general consensus on the idea was a positive one. The city could benefit in several ways. It could increase foot traffic outside of Main Street in downtown Flushing, generate interest from national credit tenants and developers, increase neighboring property value, and most importantly relating to today’s topic of interest: remediating the lack of housing, including affordable housing, in the city.

The organization hired by the city is called the Flushing Willets Point Corona Local Development Corp., and the city is working as a paid contractor for the organization. The new neighborhood envisioned is being called “Flushing West.”

This area encompasses about a dozen blocks along a polluted stretch of the Flushing River. It is bound by Northern Boulevard on the north side and the No. 7 subway train on the south side. It is currently home to several warehouses and businesses including U-Haul and Scrap King.

West Flushing has been on the cusp of change for a while. Shulman (of the nonprofit organization) has been working toward this goal since 2011 when it hired and given a $1.5 million grant to help revitalize the area, according to Crain’s. A key part of this arrangement was that they had to pay $800,000 of that grant to hire the city as a subcontractor. The nonprofit is acting as a necessary legal conduit and partner according to a planning official.

Naturally there are activists who pose negativity toward the plan. They argue that “nonprofits such as Shulman’s development corporation are legally barred from lobbying or trying to influence legislation – and since rezonings are laws, the organization has run afoul of this provision.” However, the nonprofit noted that all activities were vetted by the state and does not intend to influence legislation.

This is just the start of the planning process which could potentially open up the Flushing development market to more opportunity and expansion.

DSC_1734

Stephen R. Preuss is an executive director in the Capital Markets Group of Cushman & Wakefield, where he focuses on investment sales for various Queens neighborhoods. He has transacted in over $1 billion of investment and commercial real estate over his 15-year career. During his tenure, he has sold over 125 properties to date with an aggregate value of over $650 million.

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Upcoming forum to continue talk on Flushing planning study


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

File photo

The second open house event for the planning study centered on a large-scale rezoning of Flushing has been set for the last week in July.

The open house will take place on Wednesday, July 29, at the Flushing YMCA at 138-46 Northern Blvd. Information stations will be provided on a range of topics, including transportation, affordable housing, Flushing Creek, schools, and small business and community services.

Representatives from the Department of City Planning and other agencies involved in the study will be available to engage the public in one-on-one dialogues addressing their feedback and concerns on the study.

Previous information released on the Flushing West Planning Study can be found on a page dedicated to the subject on the website of the NYC Department of City Planning.

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Long Island City ‘suffering from the side effects of its very success’


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

It has been on the minds of Long Island City leaders for a while, and during the second annual LIC Summit on Tuesday it was brought to light during the first panel entitled “City within the City.”

“It” refers to the struggle to maintain balance between building new residential and commercial structures while keeping older manufacturing spaces, which traditionally form the backbone of Long Island City.

The Long Island City Partnership, which co-hosted the LIC Summit with The Queens Courier and brokerage Modern Spaces, was even awarded a $100,000 grant in January to conduct a planning study of the neighborhood that would, in part, find an answer to maintaining the balance. The study is still in its preliminary stages, so a solution has not yet been found.

“Like with the city as a whole, in some ways Long Island City is suffering from the side effects of its very success,” said Seth Pinsky, vice president of RXR Realty, during the panel in front of more than 300 professionals and leaders in the Museum of Moving Image.

Pinsky pointed out that high demand to move to Long Island City causes land valuations to surge to levels where only residential projects would make financial sense, which stifles commercial development. In turn, developers convert industrial buildings into offices and retail, displacing old manufacturing jobs that many city residents without higher education have relied on for a long time.

But Pinsky’s point was challenged by Kathryn Wylde, president of the Partnership for New York City, who urged against preserving spaces for older manufacturing and looking toward jobs for companies of the future, such as 3-D printing firm Shapeways and other technology businesses. These would require higher levels of education, which institutions such as the new Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island would provide.

“The emotional pull of manufacturing as we think of it in the past, the good blue-collar jobs for a population that didn’t have Ph.D.s, is not the future of manufacturing,” Wylde said. “Robots are going to replace people in most manufacturing. It’s not going to be the same kind of job provider that it has been in the past.”

Pinsky disagreed partly and countered that some old sections of manufacturing will still be important for the “foreseeable future,” such as construction, warehousing and distribution, because they will provide necessary services for businesses in the city. He added that there is a feeling that areas in LIC could easily become zoned residential and many workers would lose jobs as businesses close or move.

The problem of finding balance in Long Island City could be answered with a rezoning. Some of the first panelists agreed that the current proposal to rezone certain sections of Long Island City for more high-rise housing has to be examined more closely by the City Planning Department.

“I think that this is an opportunity for us to strike that right balance and find the density for the affordable housing that the administration is looking for,” Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said, “but also preserve some of the things that are worth preserving.”

Industry leaders also talked about the future of transportation, tourism, culture, zoning and LIC as a home for business in ensuing panels at the event.

And infrastructure problems in LIC, such as lack of green spaces and the need for more schools, were discussed as well. Van Bramer even promised that they are looking for spaces for new schools.

With various art and cultural institutions, restaurants, entertainment venues and a hotel sector— which is currently up to 26 buildings but has more than two dozen more in the pipeline — many recognized that LIC has become a destination with incredible growth.

During her opening speech, Elizabeth Lusskin, president of the Long Island City Partnership, revealed renderings of LIC two years in the future after 10 new towers will be added to the growing skyline. The dramatic expansion shown through the image caused gasps from audience members.

“There is a lot on the way,” Lusskin said. “And we’re not talking 10 years, we’re talking two years.”

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Flushing public forum reveals planning study


| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo by Alina Suriel/ Gallery courtesy of the NYC Department of City Planning

The NYC Department of City Planning publicly revealed Thursday night details of a Flushing West planning study which will result in large-scale re-zoning in line with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 10-year plan to increase affordable housing.

The study area is a 10-block zone bounded by Northern Boulevard to the north, Roosevelt Avenue to the south, Prince Street to the east and the Van Wyck Expressway and Flushing Creek to the west. Underutilized commercial and industrial land uses will be re-examined for changes which aim to allow for new residential, commercial and community facility uses alongside the eventual redevelopment of the area.

This will be accomplished by increasing allowable residential density, providing a public space amenity plan, and rethinking the height and massing of new buildings, as well as several other aspects of study.

“I hope that you can see how comprehensively we’re trying to think about Flushing, and yet how innovative this process is for this community,” said John Young, director of the City Planning Department in Queens.

Officials, community organizations, and residents were outspoken about their concerns for plans intended to bring major change into their area. Councilman Peter Koo remarked that the rapid growth of Flushing puts a strain on its existing community and infrastructure, and said more has to be done to preserve affordable housing, support small businesses and improve stormwater systems before increased development results in a possible population influx.

Among residents, the creation and preservation of affordable housing was cited as the biggest priority. According to a report circulated by the office of the mayor, between 2005 and 2012, rents rose by 11 percent while renters’ incomes stagnated, and to combat this trend the inclusion of affordable housing units is a condition of any new development.

While opportunity for affordable housing creation in Flushing is limited under the current zoning, any new re-zoning under the Flushing West study will fall in line with the new affordable housing requirement. Planners undertaking the Flushing West study are also being guided by other city agencies on how to adapt the affordable housing requirements to the area in a way that is financially feasible.

Grace Shim, executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, was fearful of the possibility of residents being displaced in programs which do not address the needs of the population with the lowest income.

“We don’t want them to be priced out of here,” said Shim, who added that the most vulnerable sector consists of senior citizens and recent immigrant with limited English proficiency. “We don’t want them to be pushed out.”

In addition to preserving affordable housing, expanding waterfront access to Flushing Creek is also targeted as a specific objective of the study. Planners will work to find ways to provide pedestrian access to the waterfront by creating a street network leading to the area, which is now difficult to access due to narrow sidewalks and closed-off street networks.

Open walkways and green areas are eyed for the waterfront’s future, as well as affordable housing developments to utilize some of the open space.

The community input process of the Flushing West planning study is ongoing, and previous public presentations as well as additional information can be found online at nyc.gov/flushing-west.

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BP Katz approves zoning amendment to speed up post-Sandy recovery


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

More help is on the way for Queens residents affected by Hurricane Sandy trying to rebuild their homes.

Borough President Melinda Katz recently approved amendments to citywide zoning codes, which will allow more Sandy-affected homeowners to rebuild their homes faster and to return them to how they were before the storm instead of having to alter them to fit current regulations.

The zoning change is a result of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s overhaul of the city’s Build it Back program, which has started construction on 412 homes in Queens to date, and completed construction on 222.

“This is a vital text amendment that will finally relieve the red tape that had burdened entire neighborhoods and prevented thousands of homes from fully rebuilding since Hurricane Sandy,” Katz said. “Thanks to joint inter-agency collaboration, home and property owners will soon be able to rebuild their homes to their original form prior to the storm, with improved flood resiliency elements.”

The amendment was also approved by Sandy-impacted community boards 10, 13 and 14. It would allow, among other things, more residents to rebuilt their homes faster by waiving document requirements.

Under current laws, before reconstruction can begin on residences, homeowners are supposed to provide documents to show changes made to homes since 1961, which is difficult for most people since their homes probably traded hands since then or documents were destroyed in the storm.

Also, some homes could be required to be constructed much taller than others in the neighborhood because of current zoning. The amendment will create zoning pockets, which will allow homeowners to build shorter and wider homes, which are prevalent in surrounding neighborhoods.

Now with support from Katz, the amendment must be approved next by the Department of City Planning and then the City Council before it can go into effect.

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City Planning extends public comment period for mayor’s citywide rezoning plan


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

The Department of City Planning is giving residents more time to express concerns about Mayor Bill de Blasio’s citywide rezoning plan, following criticisms at a recent public hearing.

The public comment period was originally scheduled to end on April 6 but has been extended to April 30 for the proposal, Zoning for Quality and Affordability, which is a significant part of Blasio’s plan to create or preserve 200,000 affordable housing units citywide in 10 years.

De Blasio hopes more than 11,250 of those affordable units will be built over the Sunnyside Yards in Long Island City, an idea that has also taken heat from residents and elected officials.

The citywide proposal targets changing zoning regulations to encourage the construction of more affordable and senior housing as well as improve the look and quality of buildings.

Part of the proposal would, for example, reduce parking requirements for buildings in neighborhoods with public transit options or that have low car ownership, which will help lower construction costs; the report claims this would reduce costs for housing.

The plan also seeks to ease rules that shape buildings and allow more design flexibility for developers in high-density areas by increasing height maximums in many areas up to 15 feet and reducing setback requirements. This could help developers to create bigger buildings with higher floor-to-floor heights and better layouts.

However, critics at the public hearing on March 25 have said that there hasn’t been enough publicizing of the plan. Residents fear that larger buildings will be built in some historic neighborhoods that have fought for strict contextual zoning regulations to protect the character of the areas, such as Jackson Heights.

Some also criticized that since many buildings will have only 20 percent affordable housing to meet city subsidy programs, mostly market-rate or luxury units will be built through the housing initiative.

Following the public comment period, the city planning will produce amendments to the proposal and another round of public review will begin.

Click here for a summary of the plan or here for the detailed draft.

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City considering rezoning Long Island City for even more housing


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

The residential construction boom in Long Island City may continue for much longer as the city mulls over a potential rezoning to allow more high-rise apartment buildings in the neighborhood.

City Hall is considering up-zoning an area covering about 100 blocks, which includes the Queens Plaza and Court Square sections, to promote more residential buildings, including many with mixed-income units, to combat the affordable housing crisis in the city, according to a published report.

The plan has support from some in the community, but also draws concern about upgrading public amenities for current residents, such as transportation and schools, before bringing in more people. Even without the up-zoning, thousands of new residents will be coming to Long Island City in the near future.

There are already about 20,000 units under construction in the neighborhood, business advocacy group Long Island City Partnership told the Wall Street Journal.

Other community leaders feel it could further diminish the shrinking manufacturing sector in the burgeoning neighborhood and put pressure on the balance the community is trying to maintain.

The LIC Partnership will conduct its own planning study, focusing on how to balance business, residential, tech and industrial growth in the area in years to come.

The New York City Regional Development Economic Council awarded a $100,000 grant for the study and subsequent plan that will be created from it.

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Queens Chamber celebrates winners of annual building awards


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Liam La Guerre

The Queens Chamber of Commerce hosted its 99th annual Building Awards on Thursday, recognizing architecture and design of new buildings around the borough.

Out of 100 total entries, just 19 new construction, interior and rehabilitated use projects were selected as winners from various categories, including public use, office space, commercial and residential.

City Planning Director Carl Weisbrod was the keynote speaker at the event in the LaGuardia Marriott Hotel. The Chamber’s President’s Award was given to College Point-based developer Mattone Group.

In terms of new construction, the modern, glassy, three-story commercial building by K.O.H. Architecture at 215-15 Northern Blvd. in Bayside was among the winners. The building is home to a Tiger Schulmann, a Pizza Hut and a day care.

Plaza College’s newly opened campus in the Forest Hills near the intersection of Queens Boulevard and Union Turnpike was among winners in the rehabilitative use category. The school moved following a devastating fire that destroyed its Jackson Heights campus at 74-09 37th Ave. The new campus serves 750 students and features labs and medical classrooms.

Mediterranean and soul food fusion restaurant Pa-Nash of Rosedale, which opened in April, was also a winner in the rehabilitative use category, as well as the Queens Library’s redesign of the teen space in the Cambria Heights branch.

Pa-Nash 3

Below is the full list of winners.

 

New Construction

Category                                                         Project

Schools                                                            Public School 330Q

Commercial                                                     215-15 Northern Blvd., Bayside

Office Buildings                                             Jackson Heights Office Building

Multi-Family, Low Rise

(up to 3 stories)                                               Xiaoyan Jin Residence

 

Single Residences

(1 family-detached up to 3000 sq. ft.)              Grippi Residence

 

Single Residences

(1 family-detached over 3000 sq. ft.)               Vaccaro Residence

 

Multi-Family, High Rise

(4 or more stories)                                           Multi-Family Residential Building

Mixed Use

(residential/commercial/industrial)                  Antonelli Building

 

Rehabilitation, Readaptive Use, Alteration or Addition

Category                                                         Project

Public Buildings                                             Queens Library @Cambria Heights-Teen Space

Colleges                                                          Plaza College

Schools                                                            P.S. 81Q

Commercial                                                     Pa-Nash Restaurant & Lounge

Single Residences

(1 family-detached up to 3000 sq. ft)               Annie Hsu Residence

 

Interiors

Category                                                         Project

Colleges                                              Queens College Rosenthal Library

Commercial                                                     Murphy’s Lobster Grill

Single Residences

(1 family-detached over 3000 sq. ft.)               Long Residence

 

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Community board approves Silvercup Studios expansion permits


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners LLP

The delayed Silvercup Studios expansion made the cut at the community board level, and is moving to an audition with the Department of City Planning.

Community Board 2 voted almost unanimously to grant approval of special permits for Silvercup West, the planned $1 billion expansion of the Long Island City film studio and mixed-use development just south of the Queensboro Bridge, although it made some recommendations.

The permits, which include one for a 1,400-space off-street parking garage and another for a Silvercup sign on the waterfront, were approved in 2006, and renewed in 2011.

When the plan first debuted about eight years ago, developers agreed to set aside 10 percent of the proposed 1,000 residential units for affordable housing, but the board now recommends at least 20 percent. It is also urging developers to use original and not modern materials when constructing the Silvercup sign to preserve the historic nature.

The project also includes eight new soundstage studios as a part of a larger 2.2 million-square-foot complex containing an office tower, retail space, a catering hall and cultural space.

The community board, the borough president, City Planning and the City Council all gave their blessings for the land use case of the project in 2006, and it was supposed to be completed by 2010, according to published reports.

However, the project is being held up by New York Power Authority (NYPA) generators sitting on three acres of land on the site, which have to be decommissioned and removed.

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Leaders pushing to save Flushing row houses


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

Flushing leaders don’t want developers to make themselves at home in some parts of the neighborhood.

Politicians and civic representatives are still pushing for a way to save row houses, after yet another residence on 56th Road was gobbled up by a developer, who has already begun to expand it from a single-family residence to a multi-family home.

While it’s not illegal or a violation of zoning regulations, neighbors are worried that the expansions will put an end to the classic single-family row houses, which have shaped the neighborhood since the 1930s. They also believe that expanding the row houses will create overdevelopment in the middle class community and lead to quality of life issues, such as traffic congestion.

“We understand that houses get bigger, but we have to balance that with some respect for the people who live in these homes,” said Don Capalbi, president of the Queensboro Hill Flushing Civic Association. “If we allow this, there are row houses all over the borough and all over the city that are going to expand. Once developers see what they can do and the money that can be made, they are going to be swarming all over the borough looking for these homes.”

Richard Hellenbrecht, president of the community umbrella organization the Queens Civic Congress, urged the Department of City Planning in a letter earlier this year to create a new zoning classification that would help protect single-family row houses. Community Board 7, which oversees Flushing, sent a letter to the city agency as well, and received a response that suggests future discussions, but no promises.

“An examination of zoning uses pertaining to single-family row houses raises citywide policy concerns, and to date no consensus has been reached regarding the specific nature and locational appropriateness of such a potential new designation,” said City Planning Director Carl Weisbrod in a letter the board received on July 11. “We would certainly be open to discussing this issue with you in the future.”

Councilman Peter Koo, who represents Flushing, has requested a meeting for the end of August with City Planning to figure out a solution that could help save the row houses.

“My constituents deserve the best possible protections against overdevelopment in their neighborhoods, and I want to make sure no block is left behind,” Koo said. “I look forward to working with City Planning and all community stakeholders as this process moves forward.”

 

 

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New mixed-use residential structure to replace 80-year-old Bayside building


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre


Longtime Bayside firm Pilling Real Estate closed a big saleits own building.

After more than 30 years in the same Bayside office at 42-18 Bell Blvd., the firm packed up everything Monday, July 28, in preparation to move after owner Betty Pilling sold the building for $1.15 million in May, according to city records.

The new owner, Bell Realty, plans to transform the building, which was built in 1931 according to the Department of City Planning, into a three-story mixed-use residential and commercial structure.

“There is a lot more that you could get out of that land than what we were doing with it,” Pilling said. “It was just time.”

Despite the sale, the owner and brokers of Pilling Real Estate are not leaving Bayside. The company plans to merge with another local firm, yet to be announced.

Frances Lee Pilling founded the realty firm in 1953. She moved the business in 1981 to the building on Bell Boulevard, which was a farmhouse converted to office space, according to the younger Pilling.

The building will expand from two stories to three and will have four residential units, according to the Department of Buildings filings. It will be similar to the relatively new building next door, a four-story mixed-use residential and commercial building, where a new fried chicken restaurant plans to open on the first floor.

“I feel bad, because it was kind of a standout building,” Pilling said. But she added, “[Bell Realty] has wonderful plans. They are an extremely established firm. They are not a fly-by-night builder.”

 

 

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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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Ridgewood, Glendale could get new bike paths this summer


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy Department of City Planning

The ongoing plans to add new bike lanes to Community Board 5 (CB 5) seem to be rolling along smoothly.

CB 5’s Transportation Committee voted unanimously on Tuesday to recommend proposed lanes in Ridgewood and Glendale, which could be implemented as early as this summer.

The proposal, which includes lanes in the Department of City Planning’s phase one plan, will now hinge on a full board vote in the CB 5 February meeting.

If the board approves the new bike paths, City Planning will begin implementing the lanes this summer. The agency will also continue to evaluate phase two, which would eventually add more bike paths and connect routes in Maspeth and Middle Village.

Phase one of the plans connect to the bike lanes in the Brooklyn network of paths.

One set flows parallel on Woodward and Onderdonk avenues from Flushing Avenue to Cooper Avenue. Another set runs on Harman and Himrod streets from Evergreen Avenue to Metropolitan Avenue.

Phase two contains an expansive network of lanes throughout the rest of CB 5. However, residents have complained about a proposed lane on Elliot Street through Mount Olivet Cemetery between 67th Street and Mount Olivet Crescent. The two-way street is so narrow it is already dangerous for car traffic.

 

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