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Community Board Rejects 8-Story Rezoning Proposal, Unless Developer Meets Conditions

Queens Community Board 1 Meeting Thursday at Astoria World Manor

Oct. 14, 2019 By Christian Murray

The Astoria World Manor was filled to capacity Thursday night as residents went to weigh in on a proposed 8-story development that would rise on 46th Street near Ditmars Boulevard.

Mega Realty Holding, an Astoria-based real estate company, is seeking to rezone 22-60 46th St. in order to construct an 88-unit apartment complex that would include a 250-seat community theater and 6,500 square feet of retail space. The site is currently zoned for manufacturing.

The theater would be leased and operated by the Pancyprian Association, a group founded by Cypriots in 1975 that focuses on culture, dance, theater and sports.

Community Board 1 voted on the proposal at the end of the night, rejecting it by a vote of 21 to 12 unless Mega modifies the plans to meets a number of conditions. These conditions include reducing the height of the building and providing units at more affordable income levels. The vote is advisory and is part of the public review process.

The vote, however, followed an impassioned public hearing where about 20 people spoke on the project, with many for and against it. Most of the supporters were members of the Greek/Cypriot community touting the benefits of the theater.

The naysayers were largely long-time Astoria homeowners.

“Piece by piece developers are destroying neighborhoods. It begins with one project and others follow,” said Al Rizzo, a member of the Astoria Homeowners Association. “Quiet residential neighborhoods are now being overpopulated by big developers.”

Tony Mazzara, president of the Astoria Homeowners, Tenants and Business Civic Association said that the project is too large, since it is near one-and two-story houses. He said that his fellow members believe it would overwhelm the infrastructure, such as the bus network.

But supporters such as Philip Christopher, president of the Pancyprian Association, said the development is good for the community. He said that 80 percent of the association’s members live in Astoria and that a cultural center/theater is good for bringing communities together. The center would also be available for other groups.

Marie Torniali, the chair of Community Board 1, asked the crowd whether they supported the project. The majority of the attendees raised their hand in opposition to it.

Mega did a presentation of the plans before the public and the board weighed in.

Emanuel Kokinakis, Mega’s development manager, said that the company had addressed many of the concerns presented by the board’s Land Use Committee in recent months.

He said that the original plan was for 136 units, with 78 of them being studios. However, he said, in response to the board’s request to build larger, family-sized units Mega reduced the number to 88, with 60 percent of the units being 2-and 3-bedroom units.

Proposed Affordable Housing Mix at Mega 22-60 46th St. Development

Mega is required to provide an affordable housing component as part of the rezoning under the City’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program. The company has elected to provide the “workforce housing” option under the program–where 30 percent of the total residential floor area must be for housing units for residents with incomes averaging 115 percent of the Area Median Income.

Mega plans to build 28 affordable units to meet the MIH requirement, with 18 of those units being for households earning up to 135 percent of the AMI. A one bedroom at these income levels would be $2,570, 2 bedroom $3,093 and a 3 bedroom $3,566.

The 10 other units would be at lower price levels, with five units at 90 percent AMI and five at 70 percent AMI.

Board member Nancy Silverman said that the income levels for the affordable units are too high for many residents and asked Kokinakis to offer “Option One” under the MIH program.

Option One requires at least 25 percent of the total residential floor area to households at an average of 60 percent of the AMI.

“The real need in Astoria is affordable housing—not luxury housing so why can’t you do better,” Silverman said.

Kokinaskis said that it was not financially feasible to do so. He said that since there are only 88 units and 11,000 square feet is being allocated to a theater Option One was not doable.

Mega aims to complete the rezoning process early next year and break ground in spring of 2020. The company anticipates that it will take two year to construct the building.

The affordable housing would be managed by Astoria-based HANAC and the lottery process would begin about 6 months before the completion of the project. There would be a 50 percent preference for residents of Queens Community Board 1.

The rezoning application also dealt with parcels beyond the specific development site, such as some of the nearby houses that do not conform to current zoning. These parcels would be rezoned R4 to put them in compliance.

The board voted against the project unless about 10 conditions are met. Some of the items the developer has already agreed to do.

The conditions included:

  • 1) Reducing the height of the building to reflect the surrounding residential context, excluding the Pistilli building from being considered as contextual.
  • 2) Making sure that the height in the setback of the front wall does not exceed six stories.
  • 3) Choosing Option 1 of the MIH to reduce the affordable housing income levels. The board does not support the “workforce housing” option.
  • 4) Limiting the number of units to 88.
  • 5) Making sure there are no studio apartments, with 40 percent of the units being one-bedroom, 42 percent two-bedroom and 18 percent three-bedroom.
  • 6) Providing landscaped areas for public use.
  • 7) Increasing the number of parking spaces (from the proposed 70 spaces) and offering parking discounts to tenants
  • 8) Limiting theater use to nonprofit community and cultural groups

The plans will now be reviewed by the Queens Borough President who will provide an advisory opinion before the proposal goes on to the City Planning Commission and the City Council to be reviewed. The City Planning Commission and the City Council’s decisions are binding.

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12 Comments

Denise

We have too many McMansions being built. Now we have too many Studio, 1, 2, and three bedroom apartments with rent that you pay for a house. Corporations aren’t paying their employees the money to survive these prices. When my parents lived in Astoria we had affordable housing. The developers are avoiding building them. They are also going against the zoning rules and our politicians are doing nothing to stop them (are they being paid under the table.) We need affordable housing and not for the criminals coming out of jail. It’s for hard working people who aren’t paid what their worth because corporate greed feels that way. TOO MANY PEOPLE OUT OF WORK AND NOW OUT OF A HOME BECAUSE OF CORPORATE GREED. This has to stop.

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JS

So the other group gets approved to turn the warehouse a couple of blocks away into a religious center without any community feedback or notification and this proposal makes social media, community input via meeting and a rejection from the Community Board.

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Jennifer Wharton

The only redeeming factor of this building that anyone spoke about at the meeting was the theater. As a professional musician, I can appreciate people wanting to continue the traditions of their culture but none of them live on this street. I do. This building is just a few doors down from where I live.

The developer tried to tell room full of people that my street was unsafe. A street that I’ve lived on for almost 10 years. I work at night so I’m walking home by myself a lot late at night. It’s a plain lie. Who knows what else they were lying about I get that it’s their job to sell this building but don’t lie to my face.

Don’t tell us that you’re providing parking at $200/month when there’s an empty parking lot at the Pistilli building. No one wants to pay for parking so you’re trying to turn Astoria into Brooklyn where you’ve gotta drive around forever to find ANY kind of spot.

When the only people sticking up for a project are the developers and the folks basically getting a theater for free, and EVERYONE else who actually live in the neighborhood is against, maybe you should re-evaluate

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Anonymous

Although this move is definitely in the right direction (It comes a bit late in the day), since the area is made for manufacturing, why not build more grocery stores or medical facilities which would better the community?

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Rose

There is a huge medical building on 23 ave and 31 street that surrounding homeowners/residents were against that was built anyway because the surrounding homes housed mostly poor working class.

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Stark

If the developer can modify their plan as stipulated in the article. I can live with that. Parking for tenants should be free. Any remaining spaces could be leased monthly to neighbors who do not have a garage but want their cars off the street especially during the snowy months.

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Concerned Citizen

Besides the fact that the people who said they were for it were friends and family members of the developers who don’t even live in Astoria, they focused too much on the community theater, completing rejecting the residential portion of the project. It’s nice to try and have a say from your million dollar homes in Malba and Manhasset, God forbid anything went up near your home.
There are several community theaters like the Cretan Society and Chian Society, where I’m sure you could have your students dance 6x a year.
The presentation by the developer was sloppy and unorganized, he also referred to homeless shelters going in the space if the plan was rejected, sounding like blackmail. The board didn’t even know what they were voting on because voting Yes meant no to the project and voting No meant yes to the project. Just another example of greed–these people have enough money but want to kick people out of areas where they’ve lived for years. They’re going to make it completely unaffordable to live here anymore.

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Stark

It won’t be a homeless shelter. The city cannot afford to build one and the developer isn’t going to invest in a building and get a pittance in return to basically warehouse people. A community theater is nice but if that’s their main selling point, just build the theater and commercial space without the residential component.

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Stark

Our neighborhood hasn’t been quiet in a long time. Ditmars Blvd is a parking lot on a good day. Trying to cross 21st Avenue during rush hour is another joyous activity. Nice while it lasted though.

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Skip Seglipse

You should try walking or riding a bike. If you want to sit in a car, then suffer in traffic and delays.

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