April 22, 2022 By Christian Murray
A group of developers that aim to rezone five city blocks in Astoria in order to build 2,800 units will certify their plans Monday—in defiance of Council Member Julie Won.
The developers of Innovation QNS said Friday that they will be certifying their plan April 25, which will mark a major step in their quest to rezone the area. Their controversial plan will undergo the six-month-long public review process where it will go before Community Board 1, the borough president, the City Planning Commission—and the City Council for a binding vote.
The decision by the developers to move ahead and certify the project comes on the heels of Won trashing components of the plan as well as their outreach efforts.
She wrote in an op-ed published in the Queens Post Thursday that the project is not ready to be certified. She said the developers had not met their requirements for certification that she set in a letter dated March 8.
The letter called for the developers to hold townhalls and workshops in multiple languages and to engage in greater outreach to increase awareness of the plan. She said that the outreach was vital—particularly given the scale of the plan, which would bring more than a dozen buildings to the area that would range in heights from nine to 27 stories.
Won’s views are pivotal since it will be her vote in the city council that will ultimately determine whether the rezoning application is approved. The city council typically votes in lockstep with the representative where a development is proposed.
If Won rejects it, the rezoning application is almost certain to fail.
The development team–consisting of Kaufman Astoria Studios, Silverstein Properties and BedRock Real Estate Partners—issued a statement Friday following Won’s Op-ed.
“After four years of planning, refining the plan based on input from the community and working with City agencies to complete the extensive studies and analysis as required, we believe it is appropriate that the formal review process commence and that the public has an opportunity to be heard,” said Michael Johnston, spokesman for Innovation QNS.
The developers said that they had not been notified by Won that she didn’t want the project to be certified at this time. They did not comment on the op-ed.
The developers held a town hall on Wednesday in response to Won’s March 8 letter calling for townhalls and outreach.
But Won was critical of the townhall and the way it was managed.
In her op-ed, she said that community advocates were initially denied entry after organizers falsely claimed that the event was at full capacity, which she said was not the case. The Queens Post took a video of the incident.
Won said that the translation service was inadequate, and the townhall was held at a time when Muslims were observing Ramadan and Orthodox Christians observing Holy Week.
She said that the developers had shown little consideration for the local community, noting that many small business owners in the area are unaware of the plan.
The op-ed also said that when many people did speak, they called for more affordable housing—not luxury housing.
“I was clear [on March 8] that this project should not certify before aligning with the needs of the community and I stand by that today,” Won wrote. “I laid out a clear path for the developers to show themselves to be good faith partners in this plan, and they have decided to move ahead before meeting any of my requests.”