Oct. 21, 2014 By Michael Florio
The rent for a one-bedroom may be as high as $2,700; a 2 bedroom $3,200.
These are some of the prices that are deemed “affordable” as part of the 1,700-unit mega development called Astoria Cove. The developer Alma Realty is setting aside 20% of its units as so-called “affordable” apartments.
The rental prices (see chart below) and the number of units deemed affordable have become extremely contentious—despite the City Planning Commission approving these rental figures and the percentage of “affordable” units last month.
Alma Realty, which is also facing a barrage of criticism for its rental tactics in Brooklyn, just needs the approval of the city council before it can proceed. As part of that process there was a council subcommittee meeting held Monday that addressed many of these concerns.
Astoria’s Councilman Costa Constantinides told the subcommittee that he had serious concerns about the project. He said that the average household income in Astoria is currently $56,000 per year, or about 74 percent AMI (Area Median Income).
“Astoria Cove has to have real affordability that is within reach to every Astorian,” he said. “Until Astoria Cove is made affordable for actual Astorians, I cannot support the project.”
Under the proposal, affordable covers households that earn up to 175% of the AMI. Therefore an individual earning up to $103,000 would be eligible for an “affordable” studio– at a cost of about $2,500 per month. Furthermore, an individual earning up to 125% of the AMI (or $73,500) would be eligible for an “affordable” studio at $1,800.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who testified before the subcommittee, said the affordable units were too expensive.
“This [$2,700 for a one bedroom] is higher than the average market rate rents for Astoria and nearly two times higher than the rest of Queens,” he said in his testimony to the subcommittee.
“The bottom line is that $2,700 for a one-bedroom apartment is not affordable,” he added.
Alma Realty also faced criticism as to how many of the units were set aside as “affordable.”
To date, Community Board 1 and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz have recommended that the project be voted down unless more affordable units are included. Constantinides is also calling for more units and said that he is working with the developer.
Alma Realty’s history as a landlord was also brought into question.
Stringer said Alma is currently attempting to substitute 700 rent stabilized leases at a Crown Heights housing complex for market rate leases.
Elected officials including Stringer, Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo and Assemblyman Walter Mosley held a rally Sunday with the tenants in an attempt to keep the rents stabilized.
Cumbo, whose district covers Crown Heights, said Sunday that she plans to find 26 other council members to vote to down the Astoria Cove project.
Constantindes raised other concerns at the committee meeting. He said the mega-development would place a great burden on the transit network.
“This problem will not be solved by simply running shuttle buses to local train stations,” he said. “If this plan is to work, it must include transit upgrades and new options such as ferry service that can benefit current and future residents of the peninsula alike.”
After yesterday’s meeting, Constantinides said he would continue to work with Alma Realty to ensure that it is beneficial to the community.
“As the process moves toward our November vote, we will work with the developer to provide ample affordable housing, good jobs… and dramatically increase public transportation options.”