After ‘exhaustive negotiations,’ Won supports $2 billion Innovation QNS project in Astoria ahead of key City Council vote

(Photo by Adrian Childress)

The massive $2 billion Innovation QNS development in Astoria will move forward after Councilwoman Julie Won on Nov. 21 threw her support behind the project ahead of a unanimous Land Use Committee vote, which effectively gives the green light to the developers to build a new five-block mixed-use neighborhood.

Won said her decision comes after months of “exhaustive negotiations” with the Innovation QNS developers behind the project — Silverstein Properties, BedRock and Kaufman Astoria Studios — which yielded more than double the number of affordable units that were originally offered, as well as an unprecedented package of community benefits.

“From Day One, I have stood with my community in demanding deeper affordability from this development — and because we held the line, the Innovation QNS project has doubled the number of affordable units than initially offered, from 711 to 1,436 affordable units,” Won said. “In our negotiations, I never once compromised on the level of affordability at MIH Option 1 to Option 2 or 3, as these homes have to be accessible to the current residents of the neighborhood: immigrants, working-class families, and our growing number of unhoused neighbors. As a result, we have secured a project that, with unprecedented private investment, will deliver 1,436 permanently affordable apartments, including 658 deeply affordable units for formerly homeless and extremely, or very low-income individuals and families.”

The Land Use Committee voted to approve the rezoning application by a 9-0 vote. The Department of City Planning will review the modifications during a special session Tuesday morning, and if approved, the full City Council will vote later in the day.

“As a community, we have set a new standard for building affordable housing on private land, and I commend and thank each community member and elected official for remaining steadfast,” Won said. “To tackle our city’s affordable housing crisis systemically, we must implement comprehensive, citywide planning which prioritizes the very New Yorkers we have excluded from these processes for far too long.”

Won kept negotiating with the Innovation QNS team after Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and Mayor Eric Adams announced their support for the project after the developers offered 40% affordability.

“A new standard is being set in Queens on what community-first development can and must look like. I’m grateful to Council Member Julie Won for her efforts and the Land Use Committee for its vote today to bring Innovation QNS one step closer to the finish line,” Richards said. “This project is worthy of the community and the borough it will call home, and I’m deeply proud of the work so many elected and community leaders have done to ensure that Astoria families, first and foremost, will be the ones to reap the benefits.”

The mayor called the vote another critical win in the fight against our city’s affordable housing crisis.

“This project will create nearly 3,200 new homes in Queens, including 1,400 that will be rent-restricted with 500 that will be deeply affordable,” Adams said. “In a community with a lower vacancy rate than the rest of the city, creating this kind of affordable housing is a game-changer. In just the last week, the city has advanced plans for nearly 8,500 new homes across the city. This is exactly the kind of historic work we must do to tackle the housing shortage at the root of our affordable housing crisis.”

Speaker Adrienne Adams called the newly revised project an unprecedented step to expand affordability and community benefits.

“This doubles the number of affordable units with real affordability at the deepest levels, provides homes for formerly unhoused and low-income people with rental vouchers, and protects surrounding tenants by supporting free legal services,” the Speaker said. “This project will make a meaningful contribution toward improving lives and addressing homelessness. I applaud Council member Won for advancing affordable housing solutions and public benefits that will benefit her district and all New Yorkers.”

QNS reached out to the Innovation QNS team and is awaiting a response.

Meanwhile, additional community benefits include a new school in Court Square since the developers were unable to provide one on site; more than $16 million for heating plant repairs; and resiliency investments at the nearby Woodside Houses, among other investments.

“Councilwoman Julie Won has negotiated unprecedented gains of affordability for this scale of residential development in Queens,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez, who will represent the area beginning next year. “Thanks to her efforts supporting the community, the committed amount of affordable housing at the Innovation QNS project is double what was originally proposed.”

Community groups stood in opposition to the project earlier this year. (Photo by Julia Moro)

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez added her congratulations to progressive leaders in western Queens and the many community groups that stood in opposition to the project.

“Together as a united community movement and after deep negotiation, grassroots organizations in the Astoria Not For Sale Coalition alongside their elected officials have successfully doubled the original number of Innovation QNS’ affordable housing units,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “This is a substantial affordable housing commitment for new private housing construction in Astoria — a historic accomplishment which will also bring never-before-seen city investment in this area of Queens. This historic level of affordability, substantial public subsidy, and millions in funding for community and public housing infrastructure is welcomed investments that set the precedent for impacted communities to win greater concessions from private developers both in New York and nationwide.”