After rumors began swirling that two new apartment buildings being constructed in Astoria would become a homeless shelter, representatives of development firm Related Companies revealed the official plans during a Community Board 1 meeting last week.
Marine Terrace, a Section 8 housing complex at 20-24 21st St., was recently purchased by one of the largest development companies in the country and is managed by its affordable housing leg – Related Affordable.
“We heard about it from [previous owner] Benjamin Companies, who came to us singularly because they wanted to make sure that the next owner of Marine Terrace was going to take care of it, renovate it, preserve it and improve it,” said Matthew Finkle, president of Related Affordable.
The two new apartment buildings should be constructed by October or November 2018. The three-story building will include 21 units and the four-story building will feature 32 units. The buildings will also include new tenant services such as a laundry facility, fitness center, resident lounge and computer lounge. All Marine Terrace residents will be able to use them.
The 53 units will be constructed on the northern most portion of the site and will be rent restricted but not Section 8 Housing. An on-site management office, nurse’s office and meeting room will also be included in the new buildings.
“I know there have been some rumors that we’re creating a homeless shelter,” Finkle said. “That is not what this is obviously. These are rent-restricted, income-restricted apartments for veterans.”
A studio apartment will cost approximately $850 per month with utilities and a one-bedroom apartment will cost approximately $962 per month. Related Affordable will partner with the Jericho Project, a New York-based nonprofit that helps low-income veterans find housing and employment, to choose veterans for the project.
The veterans will be chosen through a lottery process. According to Jamar Adams, project manager for Related Affordable, because the buildings will be built with federal money, the company cannot restrict the housing to only Queens-based veterans.
To construct the new buildings, 22 parking spaces in Marine Terrace will have to be eliminated. According to Finkle, only 12 of those spots are typically occupied. Related Affordable is working with the city to possibly add 25 diagonal parking spots on 21st Street, he said.
In addition to the new buildings, the company will be completely renovating each of the 444 units in the seven existing buildings starting in August. Though rents will increase for existing units because of the renovations, only the portion covered by the department of Housing and Urban Development will increase.
“Most of our housing portfolio is affordable housing and we never give those units up,” said Charles O’Byrne, senior policy counsel for Related Companies. “It is our conviction as a company that you can’t have affordable housing just disappear and if you do you have no city and you have no community.”
According to Michael Antonik, senior vice president of construction and design, the existing units will receive full kitchen and bathroom renovations, and the courtyards and hallways will also be renovated. Tenants can stay in their homes while the renovations take place and a hospitality lounge will be set up in the hallway during the day while work is being done.
Related Affordable will also convert 33 units into ADA-accessible units so that some of the older residents can age in place, Finkle said. Tenants currently living in the 33 units will stay in a nearby hotel paid for by Related Affordable until renovations are complete.
Existing facades will get a makeover, new roofing will be installed and current pathways will be improved with a new connection to Ralph Demarco Park. Play areas and activity zones will also be installed for children and seniors.
The renovations will be completed by January 2018.
One board member said she was concerned about letters that current tenants were receiving from the company to try to entice them to move out. Related Affordable is offering tenants $5,000 to move.
“Some residents at Marine Terrace have received a letter from us for a monetary incentive to possibly move out,” Finkle said. “In order to make sure that as many apartments as possible are being occupied by the most needy New Yorkers we sometimes like to ask those residents whose incomes are at the highest level but continue to live at Marine Terrace [if they would like to move out].”
He added that the price is negotiable and that tenants can request to stop receiving these letters if they decline to move out.