Critics demand more affordable housing at Astoria Cove

By Juan Soto

More affordable housing units are coming to the Astoria Cove five-building waterfront complex.

The new number, revealed by the developers, is slightly bigger than originally proposed, but still falls short of the demands from activists, neighbors and Community Board 1.

Alma Realty and its partners plan to erect a 1.7-million-square-foot complex in an industrial area at the Hallets Point peninsula in Astoria. Now, the developers said that their project is to include 345 affordable housing flats in the five buildings.

That number amounts to 20 percent of 1,700-housing-unit complex. The original number was over 300 affordable housing homes.

The borough president held a hearing July 17, and the testimony was mixed with 11 witnesses speaking in favor of the development and another 11 speaking against. Some of people testifying represented large organizations, such as Build Up New York, an association that fights for good jobs and responsible development.

“This will be the first project that passes with mandatory affordable housing regulations,” said Borough President Melinda Katz during the Land Use Committee hearing in a packed second-floor conference room at Borough Hall. “This will be a signature project in city of New York.”

Community Board 1 will support the massive project, between 4th and 9th streets, if Alma Reality and its partners agree to build at least 35 percent of affordable housing units.

“Inclusion of more affordable housing and job creation is vital,” said CB 1 District Manager Lucille Hartmann.

Moses Gates, from the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Developments, an organization of 95 nonprofits that serves low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, pointed out that “20 percent of affordable housing is basically the minimum requirement for tax abatements.”

He added, “This is not affordable housing.”

During the public hearing, the developers explained that the area where they want to build the complex, with buildings ranging from six to 32 stories, is basically industrial and its waterfront is inaccessible.

“This plan will bring the community to the waterfront,” said Jay Valgora, an architect from Studio V, on behalf of the developer. “It will bring services much needed to the community,” he added, referring to plans to build restaurants, shops, a supermarket and a public school.

The school will be for children from pre-K through fifth-grade.

But for others, the waterfront complex will make Astoria less affordable for low- and moderate-income families.

“We are very concerned about the effect of the development in our community,” said John Tritt, an Astoria resident and member of Build Up New York. “Astoria is becoming less and less affordable.”

The borough president will have a written recommendation about the Astoria Cove megacomplex by July 30.

Once the hearing and recommendation periods are over, the project will go before the Department of City Planning. From there, it will reach the City Council probably sometime this fall.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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