June 12, 2014 By Michael Florio
The public got its first chance to weigh in on the massive development that is being proposed for Astoria’s Hallets Point peninsula on Tuesday, when Community Board 1 held a public hearing.
The developer, Alma Realty, plans to construct five buildings, ranging in height from six to 32 stories, in what is a desolate part of Astoria.
The plan is to build 1,689 rental units, a waterfront esplanade, a public elementary school, a supermarket and 54,000 square feet of retail space.
“Hallets Point has traditionally been isolated and cut off from the rest of the community,” said Jay Valgora, of Studio V, the lead architect . “There is a lot of underutilized industrial space…used for storage and to park school buses.”
The aim, Valgora said, would be convert Hallets Point into a residential center that fits in with the Astoria community.
Alma needs a series of zoning changes in order for the development– called “Astoria Cove”– to go forward. As part of the process to get those changes, the plan needs to be reviewed by the community board and a host of other agencies as part of the six-month Uniform Land Use Review Process.
The green light for the zoning change, however, is ultimately decided by a vote in the city council.
The public hearing is a forum that can often influence the community board’s recommendation for the proposal—which is nonbinding. The hearing is also used by political leaders to gauge whether they should sign off on it too.
The major sticking points on Tuesday dealt with the number of affordable housing units, access to the site, blocked views and the use of union labor.
Howard Weiss, the attorney for the developer, said that the Alma plans on building at least 295 affordable units, a number that most likely will increase.
“I can tell you right now, as you know, it’s 295. We’re working to exceed it,” Weiss said.
Weiss said that the developer is in talks with City Planning to determine the final figure. However, he said, he would not know the exact number before the community board votes on the project on June 17.
Weiss also didn’t know whether the affordable units were going to be for low-income earners or middle-income earners.
The public’s concern about the isolation of the site and its distance to mass transportation were addressed by the developer.
Weiss said that Alma would provide shuttle buses to the subway. Furthermore, there is space for a ferry terminal, should the city expand the service.
The massive development, which would be constructed over a 10-year period and ultimately house 4,000 residents, concerned some for blocking views. Three of the five residential buildings are towers—at 26, 32 and 22 stories respectively.
Local artist Luanne Rozran complained that the building would block the public’s view.
“The developer has shown a blatant disregard for the beauty of our NY skyline and wants to obliterate it from the general public … to sell it to the rich where it can only be seen from their private penthouses,” Rozran said.
Many union members also spoke and called for guarantees that the project would be built with union labor.
Weiss said that Alma is currently in talks with the various unions but did not make any promises.