CB 1 kicks back Astoria Cove plan

By Bill Parry

Developers of the massive Astoria Cove project were dealt a setback last week when Community Board 1 voted unanimously to recommend denial of the plan until a number of conditions were met.

At its monthly meeting June 17, CB 1 presented 2030 Astoria Developers LLC with a four-page list of concerns, primarily the lack of affordable housing and giving local worker priority when hiring to build the massive residential complex. The board voted against the plan because they wanted the developers to increase the number of affordable units from 295 to 590. In addition, the board also asked for more two bedroom apartments in each building that would be more suitable for families. They also wanted the units deemed affordable to stay that way permanently.

CB 1’s vote is not binding but advisory in nature, according to District Manager Lucille Hartmann.

“The board listened to the public and was able to represent them well by incorporating the community’s concerns,” she said.

The vote followed a three-hour-long special hearing June 10, when 54 residents were allowed to testify. Eight were members of Build Up NYC, a pro-union group of construction and building service workers emphasizing the importance of responsible development and keeping Astoria affordable for working families.

“My neighborhood needs affordable housing, it needs good jobs so we can continue to live here,” plumbers apprentice Lily Panych said. “I’ve testified at the community board twice because our entire community should benefit from this or any real estate development, not just the developer, and I’ll keep fighting.”

Luanne Rozran, an artist who moved to Astoria two years ago because she drew inspiration from the East River views, also testified during the special hearing.

“I was pleased with the amount of requirements that they listed for the developer,” she said. “But there’s still no good reason for the height of those buildings that will block out the glorious views.”

The plan for the complex that will include 1,689 apartments in five mixed-use buildings ranging from six to 32 stories on Hallets Point Peninsula is not on life support, according to Project Counsel Howard Weiss, an attorney at Davidoff, Hutcher and Citron LLP.

“A community board recommendation is just a recommendation and we take their decisions very seriously,” he said. “A lot of their concerns we already agreed to do and we’ll articulate that to the BP.”

The Astoria Cove plan moves to a public hearing before Borough President Melinda Katz July 17.

“Our comment period is over. Now it’s up to the BP and she’ll have 30 days to make her recommendation,” Hartmann said.

The next stop for the Astoria Cove plan would be with the Department of City Planning and then it moves on to the City Council sometime this fall.

“The mayor can actually give the final disposition, but a mayor has never done that before, so it will be up to the City Council,” Hartmann said. “I’ve been at this for a very long time and I never knew that before.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4538.