By Bill Parry
Construction of the massive Hallets Point development in Astoria has stalled after City Hall pulled funding for Building 7, a 14-story structure with all of its 163 units set to be below-market-rate housing. The Housing Development Corporation diverted the $43.5 million in funding to other projects in November, so while work continues on Building 1 at the site, the Durst Corporation suspended construction of the other six buildings at the complex along the East River, putting the remainder of the project in limbo.
“Three days prior to HDC Board Approval for our 100 percent affordable buildings’ bond financing, we were notified that the bonds were no longer available to us,” Durst Corporation spokesman Jordan Barowitz said. “We have not heard from City Hall since then, and until we do, the future of the project is unknown.”
It is the second time construction of the complex, located at First Street and 25th Avenue, had to be suspended. One day after a ceremonial ground-breaking for the project in January 2016 the state allowed the 421-a tax abatement to expire. Durst Corporation was able to continue with Building 1 because it had already been financed with the tax break, but the work on the remainder of the complex was held up for more than a year before Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Real Estate Board of New York and the Building and Construction Trades Council agreed on the Affordable New York housing program that provides tax breaks to developers in exchange for desperately needed affordable housing.
“The passing of ‘Affordable New York’ allows the Hallets Point project to continue,” Barowitz said last April. “We are full steam ahead.”
Construction resumed on the project and its 2,400 units, 484 of them “affordable,” until the HDC decision in November around the same time Republican lawmakers were considering private activity bonds in the federal tax bill, and the city was pressed to allocate the limited bond cap efficiently and strategically.
“There are many deserving affordable housing developments that are ready to go, and we constantly make tough choices to stretch precious resources as we ensure we get the best deals for New Yorkers,” Housing Development Corporation Vice-President Elizabeth Rohlfing said. “While this project is in our pipeline, this year’s volume cap allocations haven’t been made yet.”
Funding for the rest of the mega-project is contingent on the completion of the affordable housing building. Without it the project loses the Affordable New York tax abatement that replaced 421-a.
“Our project was ready to go,” Barowitz said. “Last spring we were told we were in the pipeline and then we were asked to wait until November. This November our project was approved by HDC, but they decided not to fund it.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr