Critics Say It’s Not Enough
After developers struck a deal with the city to use union labor and increase the number of affordable units to 27 percent at the proposed Astoria Cove apartment complex, the City Council Land Use Committee approved the project last Wednesday, Nov. 12.
City Council Member Costa Constantinides and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz the agreement with Alma Realty, but some housing advocates were critical that 468 out of 1,700 units is not enough to be reserved affordable.
Reportedly, Constantinides called the deal “historic” after it was announced.
“We’ve changed the way development happens,” he said,
Alma Realty plans to build the luxury project–which the developer says will include shopping and a new school–at Hallets Cove on the northwest Queens waterfront.
“The modified Astoria Cove proposal is consistent with Queens’ commitment to responsible development and is now closer to par with many of our chief concerns, namely housing, transit options and skilled labor,” Katz wrote last week. “Once built, this project will become a landmark accomplishment that we can be proud of here in the Borough of Queens.”
However, some housing advocacy groups remain critical of the plan. At 20 percent reserved affordable units, Katz had disapproved of the project as well.
She previously recommended the original project be turned down because of issues with “insufficiencies in the proportion of affordable housing units, alternative mass transit option investments, skilled labor commitments and school construction timeline,” Katz said.
“We are thrilled our allies in organized labor got a very good deal for union jobs,” said Jaron Benjamin, executive director of the Metropolitan Council on Housing and a member of Real Affordability for All. “But the lack of affordability in this deal is unacceptable to thousands of low-income and moderateincome New Yorkers. De Blasio administration officials are responsible for allowing a bad deal on affordability to happen.”
Katz claimed the deal as a victory for those who advocated the affordable levels be increased.
“Chief among the changes that I and other stakeholders had sought was an increase in the affordable housing units,” she wrote in a statement. “The developer’s agreement to increase the share to 27 percent from the original 20 percent is a marked improvement that will help us better meet critical needs as well as the Mayor’s mandate for such housing for lower and middle-income New Yorkers in the area.”
On this point Benjamin disagreed with Katz as well.
“Both the level and depth of affordability should be much higher,” he wrote in a statement. “The Astoria community wanted at least 35 percent affordability, and this deal at 27 percent fails to meet that standard.”
The developer has reportedly promised $5 million to increase waterfront access for the community and to build a ferry dock.
“I’d like to express my gratitude to Community Board 1 and especially to Councilmember Costa Constantinides for his leadership, stewardship and tenacity with the negotiations and ensuring real community benefits to our constituents,” Katz added. “I am proud to support the Land Use Committee’s approval of the Astoria Cove project’s rezoning application, as amended.”
Housing advocates have called the agreement “Bloombergian,” in its scope of affordability, and blamed Mayor Bill de Blasio, staffers for the project deal.
“In this negotiation over Astoria Cove, the de Blasio administration created a political dynamic far more favorable to the developer than to Astoria residents and to Council Members who are fighting for real affordability,” Benjamin added. “We urge the City Council to continue to push for real affordability in the very final framework for Astoria Cove and in all future development projects across the city.”