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Innovation QNS developers certify Astoria plans despite objections from local councilwoman

Innovation QNS
Despite objections from Assemblyman Zorhan Mamdani and many community members at a town hall at the Museum of the Moving Image, developers certified their Innovation QNS plan for Astoria. (Photo by Julia Moro)

The developers behind the proposed $2 billion Innovation QNS in Astoria certified its plan Monday, kicking off the monthslong city public review process, despite objections from Councilwoman Julie Won, who called for a delay in the certification.

Silverstein Properties, BedRock and Kaufman Astoria Studios entered the Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) seeking to rezone a five-block area centered at Steinway Street and 35th Avenue just days after hosting a contentious town hall meeting at the Museum of the Moving Image.

“After four years of speaking with, listening to and refining the plan based on conversations with our neighbors, we’re excited that Innovation QNS is as reflective and inclusive of the community as any economic development initiative in recent memory,” Kaufman Astoria Studios Vice President Tracy Capune said. “We look forward to continuing to work with our neighbors and elected officials toward a plan that best meets the needs of Astoria and New York City.”

Innovation QNS
Photo by Julia Moro

The developers frame the project as a “community-focused” plan that would transform an area dominated by surface parking lots, underutilized industrial and commercial buildings and vacant spaces. The project would construct 12 new buildings, with eight standing at over 15 floors and the two largest at 27 floors. The buildings would contain 2,845 mixed-income apartments, including some 725 permanently affordable and senior apartments. The development would also include 250,000 square feet of space for small businesses, startups and nonprofits in the creative industries.

The developers have framed the project as a solution to the neighborhood’s depressed economy with the creation of more than 5,400 good new jobs, including 3,700 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent jobs and $50 million in new annual spending at neighborhood businesses.

Won sent a letter to the developers last month expressing her concern that there had not been enough community outreach to residents in the impacted area, many of whom are not fluent English language speakers. She declined to comment on the certification, and her spokesman said she is standing by her comments in an op-ed to the Queens Post following the town hall meeting.

Innovation QNS
QNS/File

“I was clear that this project should not certify before aligning with the needs of the community and I stand by that today,” Won wrote.

While the project has drawn objections from Won and Community Board 1 members over the scale of the development, many at the town hall voiced concerns over displacement caused by higher rents due to gentrification. Still, there is support in the community for Innovation QNS.

“Our community strongly says yes to Innovation QNS for its 5,400 good-paying jobs and programs run by neighborhood nonprofits to maximize local hiring and opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses,” Astoria Houses Tenant Association President Claudia Coger said. “Opportunities like this only come around so often, and it’s critical that our elected officials recognize the benefits Innovation QNS will create in our community.”

Innovation QNS
QNS/File

The Steinway Street business corridor has been struggling even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As a neighborhood restaurateur for 30 years, it’s never been this hard to run a business,” Sac’s Place owner Dom Sacramone said. “This plan will help bring more customers, employees and residents to the neighborhood who will eat locally and support our recovery.”

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