The developers behind the $2 billion Innovation QNS project in Astoria will move quickly to meet the demands of Councilwoman Julie Won to shore up its community outreach and provide greater details on its proposal to build a massive development on a five-block area centered around Steinway Street near Northern Boulevard.
Last month, Won and Council Land Use Committee Chairman Rafael Salamanca took a walking tour of the area where Innovation QNS is proposing its development. A zoning change would be required for Innovation QNS to construct 18 buildings ranging from nine to 27 stories with more than 2,800 apartments, with 25% of the units being permanently affordable.
“This project has been in the works since 2020 and claims to have done extensive outreach in the community,” Won wrote. “Community Board 1, local residents and housing organizations have all expressed concerns about the lack of adequate community outreach, especially in Spanish and Bangla. The last two years, due to unforeseen circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, this project has had limited in-person outreach to residents in the impacted area, many of whom are not fluent English language speakers. Thus far, the amount of community engagement is insufficient for a project of this scale that will deeply impact not only those in the immediate vicinity but also will have lasting impacts on the neighborhood as a whole.”
Innovation QNS, a consortium of developers including Silverstein Properties, Kaufman Astoria Studios and BedRock Real Estate Partners, will need Won’s approval as the project makes its way through the city’s arduous public review process, which is expected to begin next month.
Won also demanded more detail be provided to Community Board 1, such as an environmental impact statement information and a full neighborhood impact study including a racial impact study.
“We are grateful for Council member Won’s interest and engagement on this important project, and look forward to continuing to work with her and the community board toward a successful outcome,” Innovation QNS spokesman Tom Corsillo said. “We believe we can accomplish the three things she has asked for: We have spent several years engaging with the local community, and will ramp up our in-person outreach in multiple languages, including Bangla and Spanish; we would be happy to share preliminary environmental impact statement information with the community board as soon as we can, with the full EIS available upon certification; and we will start work on a racial impact study as suggested by Council member Won — becoming the first major privately proposed development project to undertake this review.”
During a presentation of the updated project before CB 1 last month, members raised red flags over the addition of a second 27-story tower, and expressed the concern that the entire project is out of scale for the neighborhood. One member, Richard Khuzami, who is the president of the Old Astoria Neighborhood Association, believes the Steinway Street business corridor needs the project.
“I for one do not necessarily consider height a disqualifying factor as long as it does not affect the quality of life of existing residents,” Khuzami said. “While the issues of current residents must be addressed, today the Steinway Street business district, especially in that area, is extremely depressed. There is no better way to revitalize the local small business environment than to bring in more local residents.”