By Bill Parry
There may be hope for two residential mega-projects in Astoria.
Hallets Points, which was scaled back to just one building, and Astoria Cove, which was shelved entirely by its developer, may be back in play as Gov. Andrew Cuomo searches for an alternative property-tax plan. Such developments have ground to a halt across the state since the 421-a tax exemption program, which provided tax abatements to residential developers in exchange for a higher number of below-market-rate apartments, expired in January and Albany lawmakers have been unable to replace it.
The New York Times reported this week that Cuomo “has offered developers and union officials a wage subsidy for construction workers in the hopes of reviving” 421-a. His proposal went to developers Tuesday night as a single-page memo after two weeks of secret negotiations between the governor’s office and the leaders of the Real Estate Board of New York and the Building and Construction Trades Council, the paper said.
Neither The Durst Organization, the developers of the 2,400 unit Hallets Point, nor John Mavroudis, the developer of the 1,723-unit Astoria Cove project, would comment.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is depending on 421-a or a replacement as an important piece of his affordable housing plan, is pleased to see talks under way and would support a replacement program as long as it does not cost the city’s housing plan.
“As we’ve said all along, you break it, you fix it,” de Blasio spokesman Austin Finan said. “We look forward to Albany delivering a workable plan that will thaw the rental construction freeze and help deliver the affordable housing New York City needs. We’re pleased this proposal would lock in reforms we secured in 2015 that require increased affordable housing and prevent luxury condos from getting tax breaks.”
Cuomo needs to have a tax program in place to move forward on his own $2 billion affordable housing project.
“Affordable housing is a key priority for the state and we continue to work to reach an agreement on a successor program to 421-a,” Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever said. “It is clear through ongoing discussions with REBNY and the labor unions that the city’s original proposal does not provide the economics that would allow for union labor and that is unacceptable to the governor and Legislature. We are working on and considering new and various proposals with all stakeholders, but at this point there is no agreement on anything.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr