Mayor Adams announces quality-of-life improvements, new affordable homeownership opportunities in southeast Queens

Screenshot via Twitter video

Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday, March 9, announced two major milestone projects that will improve infrastructure and quality of life while tackling the affordable housing crisis in southeast Queens.

The mayor and New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams — both of whom grew up in the area — celebrated the completion of a $50 million project delivering more than six miles of new sewers and water mains to alleviate flooding of homes and streets in Rochdale under budget. They also kicked off the construction of “Habitat Net Zero,” a project that will turn 13 dilapidated homes previously owned by the NYC Housing Authority (NYCHA) into 16 green homes for affordable homeownership. 

“This community represented the promise of a better life for my family, and I am going to keep that promise for generations of New Yorkers,” Adams said during a press conference outside of a dilapidated house at 126-01 116th Ave. in south Jamaica that will be transformed by Habitat for Humanity. “The government has ignored this community for too long, denying them their fair share of investments and services — that ends in my administration. These projects will make life better for the residents of southeast Queens today and those who will be able to move here in the future, and I’m proud to say that this is just the beginning.”

For far too long, southeast Queens has endured systemic disinvestment and neglect, resulting in widening disparities that persist today, Council Speaker Adams said. 

“With the completion of the $49.3 million water infrastructure project in Rochdale and the start of construction for Habitat Net Zero — a project to deliver new affordable homeownership opportunities — our communities are seeing the investments and improvements that we have always deserved,” the speaker said.

The New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), and New York City Department of Design and Construction (DDC) completed the $49.3 million project under budget, bringing more than six miles of new sewers and water mains to Rochdale — improving street conditions, alleviating flooding, and upgrading infrastructure, while staying $5.7 million under budget. Work began in March 2018 and took place on 78 individual blocks.

“Ever since the residential development of southeast Queens more than 50 years ago, neighbors have worried about any threat of rain in the forecast, because there were no catch basins or sewers built to drain the roadways, resulting in chronic flooding and property damage,” said Meera Joshi, deputy mayor for operations. “With a commitment of $2.5 billion for a comprehensive drainage system, we are now correcting that past failure block by block.” 

More than 1 mile (5,535 feet) of new storm sewers was added to the neighborhood, and an additional 2,265 feet of existing storm sewers were replaced. To better capture stormwater and direct it to the new storm sewers, 55 new catch basins were installed, and 53 old ones were replaced. 

The holding capacity of the local sewers was increased with the installation of three new underground chambers and replacement of an old one. During construction, 9,235 feet of sanitary sewers were replaced, and 595 feet of new sewers were installed. More than 3 miles (16,160 feet) of water mains were replaced to improve water infrastructure reliability.

As part of the final street restoration, 490,240 square feet of asphalt were laid down over a new concrete base. Throughout the project area, 65,840 square feet of sidewalk and 19,370 feet of curbs were reconstructed, and 890 square feet of new sidewalk and 995 feet of new curbs were added. 

The new curbs and sidewalks were graded to help guide stormwater to the area’s new catch basins and ensure adequate street drainage during storms. Fire protection was enhanced with the installation of six new fire hydrants and the replacement of 33 existing ones. Compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act was improved with the installation of four new pedestrian ramps and the replacement of 158 existing ones.

The project is part of the ongoing $2.5 billion Southeast Queens Initiative, in which the city will build a comprehensive drainage system, improve street conditions, and alleviate flooding in neighborhoods throughout southeast Queens. The program — the largest of its kind — consists of 44 projects overall, including 18 substantially completed, 14 in design and three in active construction.

Southeast Queens residents William West and his wife praised the city agencies upon the completion of the new drainage system on Baisley Boulevard. 

“We’ve lived in the neighborhood for 40 years, so we’ve seen and experienced flooding in streets and basements. We were both delighted and relieved when we heard about the Southeast Queens Initiative, so much so, that we decided that I should photograph this historic event,” West said. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards noted the issue of flooding for nearly 40 years in the community, disinvestment and environmental racism. According to Richards, these issues are finally being addressed to correct the inequities in southeast Queens. 

“The people in this community are taxpayers just like anyone else. They get up, they drive your buses, they drive your subways, they work in NYCHA housing and run the city, and they deserve nothing less but to make sure to have investments like what we are seeing today,” Richards said. 

In regards to the housing crisis in the city, Richards stated the importance of building generational wealth for residents in southeast Queens. 

“As we see many parts of the city being built up, there’s gentrification happening and Community Land Trusts are one way to make sure we preserve our land and communities and providing opportunities for young people to come in and learn about homeownership and to own and preserve and pass something down to the next generation,” Richards said. 

The New York City Department of Housing Preservation (HPD), NYCHA and Habitat for Humanity New York City and Westchester County have closed and started construction on “Habitat Net Zero,” bringing long-term affordable homeownership opportunities to southeast Queens. 

Through HPD’s Open Door program, this project will see the demolition or rehabilitation of 13 vacant, dilapidated, previously NYCHA-owned houses to create 16 new and rehabilitated homes built to Passive House standards for affordable homeownership.

“‘Habitat Net Zero’ creates more opportunities for more families in southeast Queens to build equity and stability through homeownership,” said Karen Haycox, CEO, Habitat for Humanity New York City and Westchester County. “The positive impact of these healthy, energy-efficient and affordable homes will benefit hard-working families now and for generations to come. Our city and our state are stronger when we make room for more of us to own a piece of our communities.”

This project represents the first new construction of affordable homes where the land will be transferred to the Interboro Community Land Trust (CLT) to ensure long-term affordability. Developed by Habitat, the homes will be equipped with rooftop solar panels and highly efficient heat-pump technology for heating and cooling, reducing costs, and keeping homes at or near net zero energy use. Thirteen of the new homes will be new construction and built using modular construction; three will be gut rehabilitation of the existing structures.

Agreements with HPD, Interboro CLT, and the homeowners are structured to ensure that the homeowners have the support they need to maintain their homes and that the homes remain affordable in the long term. Initial sale prices and resale prices will be affordable to low- and moderate-income households. HPD will enter a 40-year regulatory agreement with Interboro CLT, and the CLT will enter into 99-year, renewable ground leases with each homeowner.

“Soon, these old, vacant homes will become high-quality, energy-efficient, new affordable homeownership opportunities — a testament to our team at HPD, who looks at every opportunity to expand the supply and quality of affordable housing,” said HPD Commissioner Adolfo Carrión, Jr. “And by transferring land ownership to the Interboro CLT, we are advancing equity in ownership, long-term affordability and wealth building for families and communities alike. Thank you to our local partners at Interboro Community Land Trust, Habitat NYC and Westchester, and NYCHA for making this exciting project possible.”

These sites were awarded to Habitat through a 2018 request for proposals from NYCHA. In addition to funding from HPD’s Open Door program — which funds the new construction of homeownership opportunities for low-, moderate- and middle-income households — funding for this project will be financed by the New York State Affordable Housing Corporation and with Reso A funds provided by Richards, Council Speaker Adams and former New York City Councilman I. Daneek Miller. 

HPD also facilitated an Article XI tax exemption, which will help keep ongoing housing costs affordable for lower-income households. The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) and Nonprofit Finance Fund are also providing construction financing.

“We’re thrilled to support this exceptional public-private partnership that will transform dilapidated and vacant buildings into new, highly-efficient, and affordable homes in southeast Queens,” said Valerie White, executive director, LISC NYC. “This project is centered around equity and opportunity, providing safe, secure and affordable housing for New Yorkers who need it most, while creating pathways for first-time homebuyers to help jumpstart the process of building generational wealth. We’re proud to partner with Interboro Community Land Trust, Habitat for Humanity New York City and Westchester, HPD, and NYCHA to advance this innovative and equitable project.”