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Council member slams Astoria Cove project in hearing – QNS.com

Council member slams Astoria Cove project in hearing

Rendering courtesy of STUDIO V Architecture

A member of the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises called the affordable housing portion of the Astoria Cove project “a joke.”

Councilman Antonio Reynoso joined the choir of critics against the affordable housing portion of the mega development in the council’s public hearing on Monday.

Other public officials such as Astoria Councilman Costa Constatinides and Public Advocate Letitia James also emphasized that the proposed units for low-income residents aren’t enough.

Representatives for the team of developers on the project have boasted that the project is leading the way in affordable housing with a proposed 20 percent or 345 units of the 1,723 dwellings put aside for low-income residents.

But Reynoso, referencing former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s voluntary 80/20 program, in which 20 percent of units in new developments are reserved for affordable housing in return for benefits, told Astoria Cove project representatives, “What you’re doing is not unprecedented in any way, shape or form; 80/20 without subsidies is a joke. That’s the old standard.”

Reynoso also said that the rates for affordable housing units should be adjusted to better fit Astoria residents, which Constantinides has also previously said.

The team of representatives for 2030 Astoria Developers, the group behind the project, couldn’t answer Reynoso’s question about the average income of residents in Community Board 1, who will have preference to the affordable housing units.

“You guys said that you’ve been working with the community for four years, working very closely with the entire community for four years and you can’t tell me how much Astoria residents make in a year,” Reynoso said. “That’s not four years of work.”

Reynoso also asked how the size of the units in the affordable housing sections compare with the size of Astoria families, many of which need two- or three-bedroom apartments. Again, the representatives couldn’t respond.

“When one master-plans the development, especially of this size, one never plans the unit-mix breakdown at this stage,” a representative said at the hearing. “It’s never part of the planning process.”

Reynoso said he will not vote for the project’s current proposal, and said, “There is no chance this is going to move through.”

Numerous affordable housing supporters in the audience waved their hands whenever increasing the ratio of low-income units was mentioned.

Advocates in support of union jobs and residents from other properties of Alma Realty, which is involved in the project, were also at the meeting to speak out against the firm.

Among those speaking in favor of the project was Jack Friedman, the executive director of the Queens Chamber of Commerce.

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

Despite the level of opposition to the current proposal of the project, the City Planning Commission gave its approval last month. Constantinides has pledged to get more affordable housing before the City Council votes.

“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 of the peninsula,” he said.

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