By Nathan Duke
Affordable housing advocates visited the future site of Long Island City's massive Hunters Point South project last weekend, calling on the city to create cheaper units in the neighborhood and prevent long-time residents from being forced to move to less expensive communities.
Members from several Queens-based affordable housing advocacy groups toured the site Sunday with borough residents. Hannah Weinstock, a spokeswoman for nonprofit advocacy group Queens for Affordable Housing, said activists were planning a large rally at the western Queens development's site for Sept. 14.
Weinstock said the community wanted to make sure that the 5,000 new units included in Hunters Point South, which serves as the third and fourth phases of the 74-acre Queens West project along Vernon Boulevard, are not luxury apartments.
“It's unjust to use taxpayer dollars to create buildings that most taxpayers cannot afford,” she said. “A public project should not push residents out of their own neighborhood.”
Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $7.5 billion New Housing Marketplace plan will create 165,000 units of affordable housing at locations across the five boroughs, including Queens West, by 2015. But housing advocates said the plan would only create units for households earning between $55,000 to $158,000 per year, while most Long Island City families earn much less than that range.
“Our community is being displaced because 80 percent of our incomes go toward rent,” said Josefa Castro of Queens for Affordable Housing. “I don't see the Bloomberg administration making any changes in its plans for our community.”
Jean Foos, a Jackson Heights artist who owns a Long Island City studio, said she believed the arts were being pushed out of western Queens by luxury development. She said many people originally moved to western Queens to escape Manhattan's high cost of living.
“We need new housing here, but all we're getting is high-end, overpriced housing,” she said. “People got priced out of Manhattan and now they are getting priced out of here.”
Hunters Point South is being created through the city's Economic Development Corporation. The project is currently in the middle of a seven-month approval process that should culminate by the end of the year, EDC spokeswoman Janel Paterson said.
There is currently no estimated groundbreaking or completion date for the project, but it would likely take several years to complete, she said.
The project will include 60 percent affordable housing, as well as new retail space, parking, 10 acres of open space and public parkland along the western Queens waterfront.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.