July 23, 2014 By Michael Florio
The developers who plan to build nearly 1,700 apartments on the Astoria waterfront only intend to build the bare minimum of affordable units required under new city policy—despite announcing plans last week to boost the number.
Alma Realty, which plans to build 5 mixed-use towers as part of the Astoria Cove development, announced last week that it will increase the number of affordable units from 295 to 345. This represents an increase from 17% to 20% of the 1,689-proposed complex.
However, under New York’s inclusionary zoning program, the de Blasio administration is now making it mandatory that all big developers build at least 20% of their units to be affordable. This new rule applies to Astoria Cove.
“This is going to be the first project under the inclusionary housing program where the amount of affordable housing is mandatory,” said Howard Weiss, the attorney for Alma Realty.
Therefore Alma, which plans to build 20% affordable, is offering the minimum. Furthermore, Alma has said that it has no intention to build more, citing the economic viability of the project.
As a result, Alma continues to take a battering from low-income housing advocates and Community Board 1 for not putting forward a proposal with enough affordable units.
Community Board 1 voted to deny Alma Realty’s proposal (which calls for zoning changes) unless it raises the number of affordable units to 590, equating to about 35 percent of the units.
“We would like as much [affordable housing] as we can get,” said Community Board 1 manager Lucille Hartmann. “We recommended 35 percent, but if it is 33 percent we are not going to go crazy, but we want more than 20 percent.”
While the board’s vote is non-binding it does have an influence on lawmakers—particularly Councilman Costa Constantinides—who will vote on the development should it go all the way to the city council.
Nevertheless, Alma believes the community board and housing advocates are asking too much.
“Thirty five percent is not a realistic number,” Weiss said. He said the developer would be footing the bill covering the costs associated with the affordable housing units.
Weiss said the entire project is being financed by the developer. The developer is not tapping into public subsidies to help cover the cost.
“We are not looking for any funding from the city or participating in any city financial programs,” Weiss said.
However, Weiss said that people need to take a look at the big picture when evaluating the Astoria Cove proposal.
He said the developer is not only offering affordable housing but it is donating land for a public school and doubling the amount of open space, among other items.
The proposal is undergoing review by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who is expected to make her non-binding recommendation by July 30. She won’t comment on the issue until then.
Constantinides would not to comment on Alma’s announcement that 20% of the units would be affordable.
However, in a statement, Constantinides spoke more broadly: “We have some concerns about affordability, jobs, and adequate public transportation in the proposed development and we are working with the stakeholders to address these issues.”
I totally agree with you Ben. I have been an Astorian my whole life. After working hard for several years my immigrant family has been able to buy a house in Astoria. For me, however, the increase of rent has made it very difficult to stay. I’m happy that Community Board 1 is pressuring such developers to increase the amount of affordable housing made available. I shouldn’t have to leave because of all these big shots swooping in from Park Ave!
Keep in mind that the last 20 years has seen a fraudulent MCI rent law, a now record 52,000 homeless in the city,courtesy of corrupt Albany and two former mayors who condoned big real estate to take over, 35% is not only reasonable but necessary. Anyone who’d support the crying of developers over what should have instead been New York City’s own right to determine its housing market has to be ashamed of themselves for supporting to displace anyone who is not extremely wealthy which has become the norm.
The developers should not segregate the residents of the affordable units from the other tenants. This was not the intention of the lawmakers when the affordable housing percentage became law. People requiring affordable housing may be seniors, non-profit workers, your current neighbors who may be displaced by the development.
I think building this project is a wonderful idea. The place currently is a dump site. They are affordable housing units in the area. 20 percent is more than enough. This development will raise the property value in the area not to mention it will be a nice seem as opposed to looking at the garbage that is currently there. We need this development on out area. No need for my affordable housing.
My husband is disable and I work, are we eligible for this p?am and how can we find out how to get our name on your list
This is a bad idea on so many different levels!
Yes how does one apply for affordable housing
To get subsidized housing you should to apply via the NYC lottery system.
with a ‘poor door’ I hope
How does one apply for one of the affordable housing units in this project?