City Council hearing draws nays for Astoria Cove plan

By Bill Parry

The chorus of opposition to the Astoria Cove development project is getting bigger and louder.

City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) has been a vocal critic of the plan but during a City Coucil subcommittee hearing Monday he was joined by City Comptroller Scott Stringer and two councilmen from Brooklyn all saying that 2030 Astoria Developers’ offer to provide just 20 percent of affordable housing unity was inadequate.

Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush) called the project “atrocious,” while Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Bushwick) told the developers “You guys are way off” with their plan to build a 1,723-unit megaproject along Pot Cove on the Queens waterfront. Reynoso criticized the 20 percent of affordable housing units, saying, “80-20 is something that comes from the old book of Bloomberg. It is something that we thought has failed the communities, especially communities of color and low-income communities.”

The Brooklyn contingent may have been swayed by a City Hall protest Saturday where Alma Realty’s plans to deregulate 700 rental units in Crown Heights was called into question. Alma Realty is part of the consortium of partners behind the project called2030 Astoria Developers.

Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D-Crown Heights) said, ”They’re demonstrating irresponsible development.” She added that Alma has a history of underpaying black and Hispanic construction workers, according to the New York Times.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer testified at the Council Hearing after taking part in Saturday’s protest.

“The proposal for affordable housing at Astoria Cove will set a precedent for our city,” he said. “The stakes are high, we have to get this right. An analysis of Alma Realty’s plan for developing affordable units shows that the city’s mandatory inclusionary zoning laws could permit the majority of units to be essentially market rate. If we’re going to meet the city’s goal of creating 200,000 affordable housing units, it cannot be achieved through this type of deal.”

Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) has been preaching that message throughout the approval process.

“Over the last several months Community Board 1 and the Queens borough president voiced their concerns about this development,” he said. “Today the public was given the opportunity to be heard on the Astoria Cove proposal. It is clear that the framework for 21st century development dictates that when public resources are used for a project, the community must benefit as a result. As the process moves toward our November vote, we will work with the developer to provide ample affordable housing, good jobs both during and after the construction process, and dramatically increase public transportation options on and off the peninsula.”

Not all the voices were in opposition to the project at Monday’s hearing. The 1.7 million-square-foot development would create 1,000 jobs and introduce new cooperative businesses owned by neighborhood residents, according to 2030 Astoria Developers.

“The Queens Chamber of Commerce believes this project is and will be a great addition for our borough and for Astoria,” Chamber Executive Director Jack Friedman said. “We wholeheartedly endorse and support the project and the many advantages it will represent for the local community for generations to come.”

Claudia Cogar, the president of the Astoria Houses Resident Association said, “The Astoria Houses community has waited generations for public and private investment that would help the community advance economically. Not only can this project improve our community, but it can be an example for development in public housing communities for the rest of the City of new York.”

Arthur Rosenfield, the president of the LIC/Astoria Chamber of Commerce said, “For 50 years no one has made an investment in this isolated part of the peninsula until now. 2030 Astoria Developers has proposed a development that will breathe positivity, prosperity and life to it.”

Between now and the Council vote in late November, Constantinides and 2030 Astoria Developers will enter a period of negotiations.

“Well, this ballgame has just begun,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “I’m very satisfied that, one, there’s going to be affordable housing where it wouldn’t have necessarily been before; two, it’s going to be very substantial by the time this process ends.”

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr‌y@cng‌local.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.