Jan. 24, 2019 By Meghan Sackman
Community Board 1 unanimously voted in favor of plans put forth by a Long Island-based diocese and a nonprofit to build a supportive housing facility for homeless LGBTQ youth next to Saint Andrew’s Church in Astoria.
The project team, made up of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, the Ali Forney Center, and Magnussion Architecture and Planning, presented plans during the board’s Jan. 15 meeting for a four-story, 21-unit building at 46-09 31st Ave., a site that today sees a two-story lowrise that once served as the church’s rectory.
The episcopal church, owned by the diocese, left the church building many years ago, with the Ali Forney Center, which helps LGBTQ homeless youth, setting up at the church’s basement and teaming up with the diocese to shelter homeless LGBTQ youth in the former rectory.
The church building’s upper level, meanwhile, has been in use by CityLight Church for several years.
The plans require that the former rectory and garage on property be demolished to make way for the new structure adjacent to the church.
The applicants explained the several variances being sought as part of their Board of Standards and Appeals application in order to have the project go through as envisioned.
Current zoning regulations, according to the architecture firm, would only allow for a two to three story building with nine units at the site,
and for only half of the 15,000 square feet available on the property to be used.
The existing limitations, furthermore, would have made for a building that protrudes further toward the street than the church, which would also block sunlight and cover the church’s stained glass windows on the building’s west wall, among other issues.
“In our minds, it would destroy the architectural integrity of the church itself,” said Cammie Altman of MAP about a building constructed under current zoning.
The desired variances work to align the proposed housing facility with the church’s property line, and for an entry garden between the church and new structure to be created. Virtually all of the property’s square footage would also be used, making for a more efficient layout.
The plans not only received a positive recommendation from the board, but drew several attendees to the meeting in support.
“I work with a lot of nonprofits and I have referred clients to Ali Forney in the past,” said Annabelle Flores, a local resident. “They provide holistic services, counseling, and housing whenever a youth identifies as part of the LGBTQ community. It’s good to have community resources and supportive housing that can help them.”
Brendan Faye, founder of the Lavender and Green Alliance, a New York City-based Irish LGBTQ organization, said the project helps one of the most vulnerable groups of people in the city.
“In Queens, this project brings together the best in New York City through an agency that is respected for the quality of its care and outreach and service for LGBTQ homeless young people,” he said.
While a timeline for the project is unclear, the team’s application now goes before the BSA for review.