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Astoria Cove architect applauds City Council decision

By Bill Parry

The City Council’s Land Use Committee voted to approve the Astoria Cove project Wednesday, after intensive negotiations raised the number of affordable units to 27 percent of the 1,723 apartments from the original 20 percent that was offered by 2030 Astoria Developers. The project will also use union labor to build the massive 2.2 million-square-foot residential and retail development

“I am happy to have reached this historic agreement on Astoria Cove,” City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria)said. “For the first time in city history, this developer will be required by law to provide permanently affordable housing that is in reach of Astorians. Twenty-seven percent of the entire development will be affordable at rates better than previously offered – 20 percent of the development will be reserved for low-income households and monthly rents will be as low as $800 per month. This agreement will help transform Astoria for the better.”

The full council was expected to follow the committee’s lead and vote its approval of the development.

“Astoria Cove will bring much-needed infrastructure, housing, retail, jobs and economic development to transform an isolated and underutilized area of western Queens,” 2030 Astoria Developers Managing Partner John Mavroudis said. “It is an excellent project for the city and the community. This has been a very engaging process and we look forward to the next stage and then moving ahead with construction.”

Watching the negotiations breakthrough was the project’s architect, Jay Valgora, who also designed the nearby 2,404-unit Hallets Point complex that was approved by the Council last year.

“New York City’s future lies in the innovative designs in the development of the waterfront,” Valgora said. “It’s really encouraging news that it passed in committee. I was always optimistic that the parties would come together and find the right balance for the community.”

Astoria Cove’s fate will be decided as early as next week with a full Council vote expected to follow the Land Use Committee’s lead.

“I think it is the right project for the community and it achieves everyone’s goals.,” Valgora said. “Sometimes a project gets reduced to a single sound bite — in this case it’s affordable housing. This project is so much more than that.”

The 50-year-old founder of Studio V Architecture has split time between his Midtown Manhattan office and Hallets Peninsula during the last eight years while planning the two massive waterfront complexes.

“This used to be a vibrant community, the gateway to Astoria,” he said. “The history of the place is important. When you look at a Civil War-era map, you see there were streets and stores everywhere. Right now it’s nothing but dirt roads with trailers on it and fences keeping the public away from the waterfront. We want to break down the walls and reconnect the community with their waterfront.”

Born in upstate Buffalo to a steel working father and English teaching mother, Valgora’s love of design grew at Cornell’s architecture school and then Harvard, where he studied for his master’s degree before becoming a Fulbright Scholar at the age of 20.

“That’s how I ended up in London as the youngest architect on the Canary Wharf project,” he said. “From there it was waterfront projects in Toronto, Boston and San Francisco. I realized all that was just practice before coming to New York.”

Valgora is working on seven different projects that will help transform the city’s 528 miles of waterfront over the next 30 years.

“That’s one of the biggest waterfronts in the world and the East River is poised to be the new center of the city, our new Central Park,” he said. “In the future the waterfront will no longer be a barrier but a connector.”

It all starts with the twin projects on Hallets Peninsula.

“It has everything the people want: jobs, schools, a cooperative local supermarket and restaurants and shops,” Valgora said.

“All innovative solutions that will really change this neighborhood.”

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