Tag Archives: ULURP

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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Board permits Willets Point mall in key vote


| mchan@queenscourier.com

willets4

Plans for a behemoth mall at Willets Point received a key nod from Community Board (CB) 7 after the city and the facility’s developer laid out a list of new commitments.

CB 7 granted a special permit to Sterling Equities and Related with a 22-18 advisory vote. The joint venture wants to move Citi Field parking to Willets Point in order to construct a 1.4 million-square-foot shopping center at Willets West.

The board’s land use committee, including CB 7 Chair Gene Kelty, voted down the permit in a meeting last week.

But a pair of letters detailing a list of new promises by the developer and city swayed them at the last minute.

“I changed my vote tonight because I had papers in front of me that I felt comfortable with,” Kelty said.

“The other time, there was nothing. I was looking at a blank slate in front of me.”

In April, the committee told developers they needed more information about parking, traffic flow and transplanting the plethora of small business owners within the Iron Triangle.

The Queens Development Group and Deputy Mayor Robert Steel returned with pages of new promises, including a pledge to provide ongoing environmental remediation of all 23 acres of Willets Point land the city is acquiring from the current occupants.

The pair of letters also detailed commitments to conduct and fund traffic mitigation measures, build a 1,000-seat K-8 public school and give $1.87 million to the Willets Point Infrastructure and Traffic Mitigation Fund.

Developers also agreed to put $100,000 into the fund for every quarterly meeting with CB 7 that they miss.

“There was just a lot more that was brought into language in both these letters,” said Chuck Apelian, CB 7’s first vice chair and head of the land use committee. “That’s why I’m supporting this, and I think we’ve come a long way.”

The recommendation now goes to Borough President Helen Marshall, the Department of City Planning and then the City Council.

Ethan Goodman, a lawyer representing the developer, said there would not be another chance to clean up the long-neglected property.

“A vote against this plan is a vote against cleaning Willets Point,” he said. “We’re talking about 100 years of contamination. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

The Queens Development Group said in a statement the approval brings them “one step closer” to transforming the area into “a vibrant new neighborhood.”

However, dozens of local residents, including current Willets Point landowners, pleaded with the board to vote against the permit.

“We have jobs over there,” said Marco Neira, president of the Willets Point Defense Committee. “I don’t know why you’d want to approve the project and kill all those businesses. We are workers over there.”

Joseph Ardizzone, the only person who lives in Willets Point, said democracy died with the board’s green light.

“Anyone that votes yes to taking my property denies me the right to be an American citizen,” Ardizzone said. “God bless America? I don’t think so anymore.”

Residents protested the delay of affordable housing during Community Board 7’s vote on Monday. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

 

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