By Naeisha Rose
A groundbreaking ceremony was held in Jamaica to mark the start of construction on a 100 percent affordable housing and mixed-used development that will provide more than 380 apartment units, a supermarket and 300 permanent jobs to the southeast Queens neighborhood.
The Archer Green Apartments was a defunct housing project that was picked up by the Jamaica NOW Action Plan, a proposal by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz’s offices to work with residents, local stakeholders, businesses and city agencies to collaborate and work on ways in developing the southeast Queens neighborhood, according to nyc.gov.
During Katz’s Sept. 21 speech about transforming the former 168th Street parking garage into an affordable apartment complex, as well as a shopping center and supermarket, she thanked her Deputy President Melva Miller for the idea.
“She was the one for Jamaica NOW and came into the office one day and said we need to do something [to revitalize Jamaica] and partner with the [mayor’s] administration,” said Katz.
The former New York City Police Department parking garage, which was located at 92-23 168th St., was underutilized, but will make way for the affordable housing units split between two towers on 370,000 square-feet of land, according to Shavone Williams, a spokeswoman for the city’s Economic Development Corporation.
“There is over 380 affordable housing units here, and 174 of them will be permanently affordable,” said Paula Carethers, the executive vice president of real estate for the Housing Development Corporation, who also spoke on behalf of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development. “Working with the EDC and the NYPD, we will create new parking facilities for them.”
According to Fred Abbate, the vice president of construction from Omni New York — the company responsible for developing the Archer Green Apartments — there will be 87 residential parking spots, 69 retail parking spots and 49 parking spots for the police department on the lower level of the development.
Approximately 15,000 square-feet of space will be used for a community facility and 68,800 square-feet will be set aside for retail and commercial space, most of which would go to Western Beef, a supermarket chain that will be providing most of the permanent jobs, according to Williams. The rest of the commercial space has not been confirmed as of yet.
Some of the community facility will be green space fit for residents to barbecue at, according to Abbate. According to the vice president of construction, Western Beef will be situated between the two towers where the apartment units will be.
The towers consist of a mix of studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units, according to Williams.
The project will also create 350 construction jobs, according to EDC President and CEO James Patchett.
“Archer Green Apartments is a game-changing project that will help spur economic growth in the heart of downtown Jamaica,” said Patchett.
HDC put in $30 million for the units and received an additional $80 million volume cap from the federal government to get the project off the ground.
“That was a resource that was going to be taken away during the [federal] budget hearings in December ,” Carethers said regarding the $80 million in funds. “The Public Activity Volume Cap… is something that is allocated to every state to issue tax-exempt bonds, and the volume cap is what we use to issue our bonds, and the bonds go towards providing mortgages at low-interest rates for the projects.”
According to state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans), the Archer Green Apartments was something that was in development from before he was in office in the City Council in 2002.
“Unfortunately, under [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg, they weren’t going to put in enough affordable [units]… to serve the community, and that is why it failed in two previous attempts,” said Comrie. “It would have been above market value and I couldn’t allow the last large-sized city-owned lot in our district to be above that.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose