Jan. 5, 2022 By Christian Murray
The City Council unanimously approved a developer’s plan last month to rezone a section of 31st Street in Astoria—making way for three large buildings that will collectively bring 278 units along the strip.
The city council voted 47 for and zero against the rezoning plan—the final step in the public review process. The vote means the project can now officially move forward.
The rezoning clears the way for MDM Development, an Astoria-based real estate company, to construct three buildings on the east side of 31st Street between Astoria Boulevard and 24th Avenue. Two of the buildings will be 11 stories, the other 12 stories.
The plan calls for 278 apartments, 69 to be affordable, in accordance with the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) requirements. The plan will also bring retail space and community facilities—such as senior and youth centers.
The buildings are slated to go up where the Neptune Diner, Staples and a nearby vacant lot are currently located. The popular diner and Staples will be bulldozed.
Without the upzoning, MDM would still have been able to develop the sites– with about 200 units permitted as of right, according to landuse attorney Frank St. Jacques. However, MDM would not have been required to build the 69 affordable housing units.
The rezoning got the approval of Council Member Tiffany Cabán, despite her saying at a candidate forum on Oct. 19 that the project didn’t have enough affordable units. “We are 67 of the 200-plus units being affordable. That is not good enough.”
Cabán also said that the units were not affordable enough. “It is not affordable housing,” she said. “We need ultra-affordable housing.”
The 69 affordable units, up from the initial 67, will be set aside for low-and-moderate income New Yorkers across a range of incomes, in accordance with Option 1 of the MIH requirements.
There will be 24 units available for households earning up to 40 percent of the Area Median Income — $42,960 for a family of three; 25 units set aside for those earning up to 60 percent AMI — $64,440 for a family of three; and 20 for those earning up to 80 percent AMI — $85,920.
The council vote, however, was held just days after Cabán was sworn into office. The vote was held Dec. 9, while Caban was sworn into office a Dec. 1.
“The project was in its 11th hour when we came into office,” said a Cabán spokesperson. “It was slated for passage and the majority of the [council] body was going to vote for it.”
Cabán’s spokesperson said that Costa Constantinides, the former councilmember, had already negotiated the deal prior to her taking office. Constantinides stepped down from office in April 2021 to take a position as the CEO for the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens.
Cabán’s spokesperson said that the council member was able to secure $250,000 from the developer prior to the vote to go toward upgrading Hoyt Playground, which is located across the street from the project site.
The rezoning had been approved by the City Planning Commission on Dec. 1 and by the Queens Borough President on Oct 29. Community Board 1 rejected the plan on Sept. 21 by a vote of 25 to 4, with four abstentions.
The City Planning Commission, in supporting the rezoning, emphasized the “transit accessibility” of the sites. The project sites are located next to Astoria Boulevard N/W subway and the area is serviced by buses. The commission also believed the rezoning made sense given the wide frontages along 31st Street and Astoria Boulevard.
The Community Board’s biggest concern, however, dealt with the size of the project.
The members viewed the project as being too tall, arguing that it would cause hardship to residents who live in low-rise buildings on adjacent streets. They also noted that the area had already been rezoned in 2010.
CB1’s Land Use and Zoning Committee Chair Elizabeth Erion said prior to the vote that many residents opposed the plan.
Erion said the board had received petitions for and against the project—with 450 signatures in support of it and 225 in opposition. However, she noted that when she analyzed the signatures in support, only 8 of those people lived near the proposed development site. Meanwhile, of the 225 who signed in opposition, 162 of the people who signed it lived in close proximity to the project.
Another concern of the board was that there were too many studios and 1-bedroom units—not enough for families. The project was slightly modified after the community board vote with a reduction in smaller units in favor of 2-unit apartments.
The development consists of three separate buildings on three separate sites.
The building that will replace the Neptune Diner will be 11 stories and consist of approximately 50 units, according to renderings released in September.
The building proposed to go up on the site occupied by Staples (Development 2) will be 12-stories and include about 160 units.
The third building (Development 3) would go up on a vacant lot on 31st Street between 24th Avenue and 23rd Road and will consist of about 75 units and is slated to be 11 stories tall.
The supporters of the project said the buildings would increase the supply of housing and would bring much-needed affordable housing to the area. They also noted that development of these sites was inevitable, given its location.
Caban gotta go. She isn’t an Astorian. Socialism is bad for everybody.
Building more buildings will make Astoria not a village in Queens. It will be a little New York City. The city is a mess now we don’t need two of them.
What about parking? They should have parking available if they are going to bring that many residents in.
Very upset that Caban voted in favor of this monstrous project. Suspected that she’s a fake Astorian, and that vote shows it. One term.
Of course, I am upset about losing Neptune. Besides that, it’s such an awful plan. 12 stories! It’s HUGELY out of scale with area and not fit for residential. Fumes from car exhaust on one side, the noise of the train on the other. There’s a reason it was zoned for commercial use.
Then there is the ongoing sicko joke of “affordable” house. No, it’s not and this one won’t be either. Will it help Astoria? No. Undoubtably this poorly situated set of buildings will serve tenants escaping Manhattan, soon enough to leave when they figure out that the constant rumbling of the NW and poisonous fumes are not worth it. Discontinuity and transience is not good for neighborhoods.
What a shame. Neptune Diner is a landmark in our neighborhood. First they took away Key Food Supermarket and now our Diner. Soon we’ll have nothing left!7
So sad to read this. I live on Crescent Street, between 23 and 24 th Avenue. We never heard of the project. I am glad it includes for low income families and glad our CB#1 rejected the plan. Kudos to all.
Overdeveloped is a problem in Astoria, but we the people have no voice or very little voice in what is happening in our community. I would like to remind our local council member that the playground across the street was renovated a couple years ago. Please use these funds for other beautification projects and sponsoring more summer music/art programs, clean up projects and mural arts.
So sad to read this. I live on Crescent Street, between 23 and 24 the Avenue. We never heard of the project. I am glad it includes for low income families and glad our CB#1 rejected the plan. Kudos to all.
Overdeveloped is a problem in Astoria, but we the people have no voice or very little voice in what it is happening in our community. I would like to remind our local council member that the playground across the street was renovated a couple years ago. Please use these funds for other beautification projects and sponsoring more summer music/art programs, clean up projects and mural arts.
SO WHERE ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE PARKING FOR ALL THESE HIGH RISE BUILDINGS
No parking, we are all supposed use bicycles!
We will all be using bicycles
Destroying the quality of life. Build this crap in the Hamptons, Martha’s vine yard. Build in the areas where these devolpers live. They need to upzone in their areas.
… if by affordable you mean 40-50% of disposable income going towards rent that is not much lower than the going market rate. Again, those who really live in the community are treated like fools.
This is very upsetting. Too many restaurants go down for these dumb houses. Should leave it alone and stop ruining good restaurants with all dumb apartments all the time. Not good
Restaurants?! How about businesses, Mom & Pop shops, groceries, medical facilities?
I was just wondering what compensation does the diner get also Staples.
The restaurant’s long-term lease expired a few years back and they renewed for a short extension which is over soon. They already opened another Neptune Diner in Bayside in 2020. I believe their big restaurant empire has another one in Brooklyn and one with a different name in Manhattan. One of the development parters is listed as 31 Neptune LLC which is based in Bayside; I suspect the restaurant owner is a partner in the development. Staples was closing retail stores anyway; they closed the 21st Street location years ago as well as many Manhattan locations.
Heartbreaking to see the Neptune close…. Such a huge part of astoria … of people’s childhood and if family times there…. And I doubt whether this will be “affordable” housing …. The flavor of the neighborhood being destroyed. Sad
yes the fish is from 70BC-great memories.
Destroying the Neptune Diner!? Might as well just rename Astoria “little manhattan,” as Astoria no longer exists.
I’m interested in a 2 bedroom asap. Immediately . How do I apply ?
I recently saw an article about congestion pricing for Queens, because of traffic. So again if you replace an area that has 50 units with 500 units, and do this multiple times you Will have more traffic and congestion.
I guess the cool little park right by the Staples parking lot is a goner also. Bummer.
Developers will never stop building and NYC will keep rezoning until everyhing old is gone. The community really has NO SAY amymore in NYC. Developers run NYC and are in politicians pockets.
meanwhile in the real world, NYC builds new housing at a slower rate than most large american cities and more & more new yorkers cram into tiny apartments, basements and homeless shelters because they don’t have anywhere to live. the affordable housing this development generates is truly affordable to low-income new yorkers and entirely paid for by the developers themselves. we need more buildings like these if we’re ever going to overcome our housing crisis.
Any time I see “affordable housing” it’s for people making 70 – 80k. Those are not low-income New Yorkers. What about people making 40 to 50k? Where are they supposed to go? And there seem to be less and less rent-stabilized units available. If I didn’t have a rent stabilized apartment, I’m not sure where I’d be living. This is pathetic. New York is really becoming divided between the haves and have nots.
The way this affordable housing works is that 10% of the building goes to 40% AMI (a family of 3 making roughly 40k), 10% goes to 60% AMI (family of 3 making 60k), and 5% goes to 80% AMI (family making 80k). So its not the entire building as affordable but it sure isn’t nothing at least. Better than the alternative which was 200 apts w/o any affordable housing.
Joe, you’re speaking to the wrong audience unfortunately. Most of the people who comment on the Post want to keep Astoria to themselves only.
The fact is queens has the lowest number of new developments vs Brooklyn and Manhattan so it’s not overdeveloped and housing prices haven’t gone up like they have in Brooklyn. But that will change this year and Astoria will see the most development in Queens and maybe in NYC by 2023
Maybe we should stop building “housing” which sits empty 99% of the year? Take a look at the Manhattan skyline and you’ll notice a dozen or so new towers which park foreign money and don’t house people – it’s not a law of nature that these buildings have to exist in this fashion. These buildings contribute nothing to our city and make the rest of us pay by destroying our neighborhoods.
Not Overdeveloped!? Have you seen Queens Plaza?!
Do any of the buildings have space for restaurants so neptune (or another diner) can come back to the area?
That’s what you are worried about? SMH
Yeah that’s what they are concerned with. Not your liberal BS concerns or feelings.
My concern is how they destroy the neighborhood and how they push out the “old school” stores. Neptune (which has sucked for years) already opened in Bayside and Staples is a big corp – so they are covered – The local AOC council rep does not give a …..about the neighborhood. It’s unfortunate that the mom and pops got pushed and no one helped – since the Vallone days
Why do so many people that follow Astoria Post have a disdain towards liberals. This is one of the most liberal cities in the world. You’re the minority here if you’re a conservative. Also just keeping Astoria to yourselves so no one can move in will just result in even higher rents, housing costs, etc in the long run. Rents will always increase in NYC but it sounds like people here want it to increase faster.
Exactly what I was about to comment.
Why shouldn’t he or she be worried about that? It’s small mom and pop places that breed familiarity and familiarity breeds community cohesion and safety.
I can’t believe we’re losing that staples parking lot, what a blow to the community