Housing project proposed

Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

One of the greater Jamaica area’s largest housing advocates is looking to break ground next year on a 100 percent affordable housing development in the heart of downtown Jamaica.

Neighbor Housing Services of Jamaica has partnered with a for-profit developer on a proposed 14-story, 89-unit apartment building on Archer Avenue between 165th Street and Merrick Boulevard.

“We are in need of housing,” said NHSJ Program Director Patricia Kerr. “We are seeing thousands of thousands of relatives who have lost their homes who have nowhere to live and we are bringing to the community affordable rental units.”

NHSJ is a nonprofit that provides education and assistance to low- and middle-class home buyers.

In addition to 7,200 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, the proposed building would have 24 studios as well as 13 one-bedroom, 47 two-bedroom and five three-bedroom apartments, all of which will be offered through a lottery. Planners said 50 percent of the apartments will be prioritized for residents already living in the area.

Architect Ariel Aufgang said almost 60 percent of the building will be two- and three-bedroom apartments.

“There’s a definite commitment to family-sized units here,” he said. “Of the 89 units, 100 percent of them will be workforce development housing.”

The property is being developed in the Special Downtown Jamaica District, established in 2007 to encourage the building of affordable housing near the transit hub.

Aufgang said he designed the exterior of the building to have a contemporary feel, and the interior’s amenities will include a second-floor laundry room, indoor and outdoor community spaces, a gym and bicycle parking.

City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) told Community Board 12 last week that he arranged the marriage between the developer and the nonprofit.

“I gave a developer the opportunity to pair up with a local, strong community group so they can continue to provide quality service and have the opportunity to start doing development in our community to develop housing,” he said. “As you always say when I come here, you got people that ain’t here developing properties.”

The board voted to approve three variances for the project. Due to the irregular shape of the block, NHSJ requested variances on the requirements for setbacks and floor area ratio.

Both the high ground water level and the proximity to the Long Island Rail Road tracks make underground parking unfeasible, said CB 12 Land Use Committee Chairman Cardinal Sanford, who recommended approving the variances.

“The reason I’m saying yes is because there is a great need for affordable housing,” he explained.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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