April 1, 2021 By Christina Santucci
The future of the Neptune Diner is in doubt as a developer wants to bulldoze the site and construct an 11-story building.
Community Board 1 held a meeting via Zoom last week to hear an informational presentation about the plan that involves rezoning three sites along 31st Street between Hoyt Avenue North and 23rd Road.
The developer wants the rezoning in order to construct three buildings along 31st Street. Two of the sites are now occupied by the Neptune Diner and a Staples store respectively, while the third site is a vacant lot on 31st Street between 24th Avenue and 23rd Road.
The three buildings would range in height from 11 to 14 stories, and would be located on the east side of 31st Street, where the elevated N/W line runs. The entire development would bring 287 apartments to the strip as well as retail space and community facilities such as senior and youth centers, a representative for the developers said.
The applicants seeking the rezoning are named as 31 Neptune LLC, 2441 Astoria Associates LLC and MDM Development Group LLC.
The developers presented their plan to board members during a Land Use & Zoning committee meeting.
The meeting, however, was disrupted when it was Zoom bombed.
Obscene drawings and a video with explicit lyrics were visible on screen. Following a second interruption, the meeting was continued in a private setting. The meeting was being screened live on YouTube at the time.
It was unclear who orchestrated the disruption and what the purpose was, if any. Board officials said they are now reviewing how virtual meetings are convened.
“We are looking into procedure and protocol,” said CB1’s District Manager Florence Koulouris. “This was the first time this has ever happened.”
A representative for the developer who was speaking about the plan at the time attempted to continue his presentation despite the disruption.
“This is my first experience with Zoom bombing so thank you for bearing with me,” said Frank St. Jacques, who was speaking on behalf of the rezoning applicants.
The developers plan to set aside 72 of the 287 units for affordable housing, under Option 1 of the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) requirements. The units would be for households making 60 percent – on average – of the area median income, or about $68,000 for a family of four.
The plan has been filed with City Planning but has not yet begun the public review process known as a ULURP. St. Jacques said the developers are hoping that the review process will begin later this spring once City Planning certifies the application.
The sites were previously rezoned as part of the 2010 Astoria Rezoning.
It is unclear what would happen to the Neptune Diner, which has been in Astoria for several decades, should the property be rezoned.
Peter Katsihtis, the diner’s owner, told the Queens Post in 2019—when there were rumors of its closing – that he had signed a five-year lease.
A manager refused to comment when called Wednesday.
The popular Astoria diner opened an outpost in Bayside earlier this year where Jackson Hole was located.