By Madina Toure
Queens lawmakers praised Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plans to push for more affordable housing in his second State of the City Speech Tuesday morning but spoke in more cautionary terms about his proposals for a citywide ferry service and affordable housing in Sunnyside Yards.
Speaking before New York City lawmakers, community and business leaders and residents at Baruch College, de Blasio said his administration’s approach would mandate affordable housing as a condition of development in areas re-zoned for residential use.
It would also guarantee that those living in affordable housing remain there and create more affordable housing by adding density to appropriate parts of the city.
In 2014, 56 percent of rental households in New York are spending more than 40 percent of their income on shelter, de Blasio said.
“This administration is taking a fundamentally different approach,” de Blasio said, “one that not only recognizes the need for more affordable housing but demands it.”
U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said she appreciated the mayor’s focus on homeless veterans.
“I am also pleased that the mayor has made housing homeless veterans a priority, an issue for which I’ve strongly advocated,” Meng said. “Nobody who put their lives on the line to defend our country should be living on the streets.”
The city’s affordable housing plan, which seeks to build and preserve 200,000 affordable homes within the next decade, includes a mandatory housing inclusion policy and plans to build affordable housing at Sunnyside Yards in Queens.
The city plans to unite local stakeholders, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Amtrak and private owners to conduct a feasibility study this month that would look into the costs and infrastructure needs necessary to redevelop the rail yards.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said any discussion concerning Sunnyside Yards should include the community and focus on providing additional infrastructure needed in the area.
“Any future development must bring with it more and better schools, new parks and open spaces, and vastly improved mass transit, particularly on the 7 line,” Gianaris said.
Melissa DeRosa, director of communications for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, for her part, said Sunnyside Yards is only to be used for transportation purposes.
“The MTA uses Sunnyside Yards as an important facility for our transportation system, and it is not available for any other use in the near term,” DeRosa said. “The state and the MTA are studying several potential future uses of the site from a long term planning perspective.”
De Blasio also announced a $55 million capital commitment and city-operated support to fund a citywide ferry service in 2017 that would bring together East River routes with new landings and services to Astoria, the Rockaways, South Brooklyn, Soundview and the Lower East Side.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz praised de Blasio’s selection of emerging neighborhoods like Long Island City and Flushing West in his mandatory inclusionary housing policy and his commitment to create 10,000 units of senior affordable housing.
She said Queens is “elated” over the city’s plans for a five-borough ferry service.
“Mayor de Blasio has laid forth a real capital commitment and a 2017 launch, while the restored Rockaway Ferry will be a boon for residents as an economic generator and an affordable transit option,” Katz said.
State Assemblyman Philip Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Beach) said he is optimistic about the proposal but that families and small businesses need service implemented immediately.
“Our ferry dock at Beach 108th was disassembled and shipped away overnight,” Goldfeder said. “It should not take two years to bring it back. Our struggling families deserve equal access to transit just like every other resident in the city and I will not stop fighting until this is a reality.”
State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) agreed.
“While I warmly welcome the announcement of this new system, my Rockaway constituents still need immediate help regarding transportation, perhaps by temporarily reinstating the former Rockaway Ferry service or improved bus service,” Addabbo said.
City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) commended de Blasio’s affordable housing plans as well as the plans for citywide ferry service.
“We are a city surrounded by water and we need to take advantage of the water’s resources, especially as we work to reach our commitment to reduce our carbon emissions by 80% by 2050,” Constantinides said.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.