Feb. 22, 2018 By Tara Law
The Durst Organization’s decision not to continue building its massive 2,000-unit development on Hallets Point will leave the isolated area deprived of much-needed resources—from a school to community facilities, said Councilmember Costa Constantinides on Wednesday.
The developer recently announced that it is no longer completing the seven-building project in response to the city’s abrupt decision in November not to provide low-cost funding toward the affordable housing component of the development.
The city, via the Housing Development Corp (HDC), said that it would not provide $43.5 million in private activity bonds toward Durst’s affordable complex—claiming the bonds are an “extremely finite resource.”
Without the construction of affordable housing, Durst claims it would also lose its 421-a tax exemption worth $26 million. The company said it plans to complete the first building this summer, but construction of the other six buildings has been stopped.
Constantinides argues that the Halletts Point project is worthy of the HDC’s investment since the development will revitalize that section of Astoria.
The councilmember said that the HDC should provide Durst with these “finite resources” because of what the project can do for the peninsula.
“I am making that case to the city,” Constantinides said.
The development would bring an elementary school, 480 affordable rental units, retail stores, community facilities, an esplanade, a playground and campus upgrades at Astoria Houses, among other items.
Constantinides said that he and the city council want the project to move forward, and that he is working to foster a dialogue between the developer and the mayor’s office to try and restart the project.
“I’m bringing all the parties together,” he said. “I’m actively meeting with both Durst Organization and the administration to come to a middle ground to come to a solution.”
The city council is currently investigating the HDC’s decision to halt the funding since the repairs to the boilers at Astoria Houses were dependent on the development.
Durst entered into an agreement with the city to retrofit the complex’s four boilers at a cost of $2.5 million since the company was given the green light to construct two affordable housing buildings on property controlled by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA).
Councilmember Ritchie Torres, Chair of Council’s Oversight and Investigations Committee, said that he is investigating the circumstance surrounding the loss of funds given the problems with heating systems in public housing complexes across the city this winter.
The city’s decision not to fund the project also coincides with a public spat between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Durst Organization President Douglas Durst, according to reports.
The disagreement between Durst and the mayor reportedly began after mayor posted an op-ed on Medium in September. In the piece, the mayor described turning down requests and ideas from major donors. The descriptions of the donors were largely generic, but one of the mayor’s examples— of a leading developer who had pursued a contract for the citywide ferry service— fit the Durst organization.
When Politico interviewed Durst the following month, he said: “I think he’s going to see lots of problems in his term,” referring to the mayor.
Durst had reportedly also drawn De Blasio’s ire for interfering with billionaire Barry Diller’s $200 million Pier 55 park project on the Hudson River last year.