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Rezoning Proposal for Neptune Diner Site Gets Thumbs Down from Astoria Community Board

An 11-story building is proposed to go up where the Neptune Diner in Astoria is located (GMaps)

Sept. 23, 2021 By Christian Murray

A developer’s application to upzone a section of 31st Street in Astoria—in order to construct three large residential buildings—was rejected by Community Board 1 Tuesday night.

MDM Development, an Astoria-based real estate company, has filed an application with the city to upzone the east side of 31st Street between Astoria Boulevard North and 24th Avenue in order to develop three residential buildings—two being 11 stories and another, 12 stories.

The buildings would go up where the Neptune Diner, Staples and a nearby vacant lot are currently located. The popular diner and Staples would be bulldozed.

The three buildings would collectively bring 278 units if the rezoning were to be approved, 67 of which would be deemed affordable in accordance with city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing requirements. The plan would also bring retail space and community facilities—such as senior and youth centers.

Without the rezoning, however, MDM would only be permitted to build approximately 200 units as of right, according to Frank St. Jacques, a landuse attorney for Akerman LLP who spoke on behalf of the developer. However, MDM would not be required to build the 67 affordable apartments.

The three sites that are part of the development plan (Screenshot of presentation)

The board rejected the plan by a vote of 25 to 4, with four abstentions. The members viewed the scale of the project as too large for the area, and said it would cause hardship to residents in low-rise buildings on adjacent streets. They also noted that the area had already been rezoned in 2010.

“These buildings are out of context with the adjacent low density and mid density neighborhood character,” said CB1’s Land Use and Zoning Committee Chair Elizabeth Erion during Tuesday’s meeting.

Erion said the board received petitions for and against the project—with 450 signatures in support of it and 225 in opposition.

However, she noted that when she analyzed the signatures in support, only 8 of those people lived near the proposed development site. Meanwhile, of the 225 who signed in opposition, 162 of the people who signed it lived in close proximity to the project.

The three sites that are part of the development plan (Screenshot of presentation)

The supporters of the project—as well as the handful of members who voted for it– said the buildings would increase the supply of housing and would bring much-needed affordable housing to the area. They also noted that the development of these sites—adjacent to the Astoria N/W station– was also inevitable.

The three proposed buildings, according to the plan, would vary in size. The building that would replace the Neptune Diner would be 11 stories and consist of 51 units if the rezoning were to be approved. The developer without the rezoning would only be permitted to construct approximately 38 units.

Development Site 1 is where the Neptune Diner and parking lot is currently located (Screen shot of proposed development)

The building proposed to go up on the site currently occupied by Staples (Development 2) would be 12-stories and consist of 161 units. Without the rezoning, an estimated 109 units would be able to be built.

The third building (Development 3) would go up on a vacant lot on 31st Street between 24th Avenue and 23rd Road and would consist of 75 units. Without a rezoning, 60 units would be permitted.

Development site 2 is where Staples and an adjacent parking lot is currently located (Screenshot of proposed development)

This site is currently an empty lot (screenshot of proposed development)

The income levels for the 67 affordable housing units would be in accordance with Option 1 of the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) requirements. The units, therefore, would be for households earning 60 percent – on average – of the area median income, or about $68,000 for a family of four.

Some members argued that there should be more affordable units and that the income levels should come down.

The board’s rejection of the plan, however, is merely advisory.

The plan is now being reviewed by the Queens Borough President whose recommendation is also advisory. The proposal will then go before the City Planning Commission and the City Council, which will ultimately determine its fate.

It is unclear how the council would vote on the plan, since Astoria no longer has a representative in the council. Costa Constantinides stepped down as the councilmember in April to work as the CEO for the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens.

The district, however, is likely to have a new representative by the time this goes before the council for a vote later this year. The winner of the general election on Nov. 2 will represent the Astoria district immediately given Constantinides’ early departure.

Screen shot of proposed development

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40 Comments

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Maria Muso

Our house is directly behind staples are houses were built in the late 20’s we are 9 houses long and elderpeople would have to live with constant ba ging and drilling:we could t open our industry with some of us with breaking issues.If our foundation or pipes compromised we will sew the city the architect: the builder and who e er causes da.age or health issues. Congestion approaching the bridge and the traffic under the tellis of the train and bridge a d what will be stored close on our property lines

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Jeremy

Such a shame that the Community Board rejected this proposal. This rezoning would create large benefits for the City in terms of increase housing affordability through new rent regulated units and more overall supply. These developments would also be great for the environment, allowing more people to live and take mass transit since these sites are right new to the subway. We need to change the scale of the area and make it denser to help fight climate change. This action by the community board is incredibly myopic and shortsighted.

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Lou

Save Astoria from the developers. We don’t need or want another luxury high rise complex here that would be completely out of scale with the rest of this already grand community.
As for “affordable” housing, the price mentioned is still ridiculously high for the average worker.
Don’t let Astoria become another Williamsburg; overpriced, overdeveloped and mostly unaffordable.
Save Astoria!

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John J.

The proposed monster will change the wonderful scale of Astoria and make it less desirable. It will definitely destroy the close sense of community.

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Shea Rogers

Please stop trying to make queens another manhattan! We need that diner and staples, we don’t need another bunch of buildings going up!

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Eileen Murphy

I would gladly have signed against this proposal. The buildings are definitely out if sync with the surrounding area. No one really wants to live next to an elevated train. I live thereby and know the motors are on all night when they lay over trains until morning rush hour. Also the Staples and Neptune Diner are needed. The diner has been here as long as I can remember. The “affordable” apartments are a joke. The buildings would stick out like sore thumbs. Enough of this when you are talking about people here who will not be able to live in the Astoria they were born in soon because of high rents.

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Never Left Astoria

Fully agree Eileen. However, the quality of food for the cost has gone down over the years.

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Anthony J Cavaliere

Developers and politicians are out for one thing, to make money at all cost, even if it destroy the neighborhood and quality of life.

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Mr &MRs J Musos

The houses behind staples owned for a life time by now senior are 93 years old historic, and we ll be subject to congestion ,no air quality breaker possible expects fumes ,can’t opening our widows siting and enjoying our yards and this stage of our lives. For four years our property value would decrease and to be inheritance to our children and the back of the building will have stores with garbage on our property line which will bring smells rodents too much congestion on 31 we are adjacent the triboro brige

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FRANK E POTOCNIK

THIS AREA IS CONJESTED ENOUGH.LEAVE WELL ENOUGH ALONE.IS PARKING GOING TO ACCOMODATE THESE HIGH RISE BUILDINGS.
BUILD DOWN BY END OF 21AVE WHERE CON ED PLANTS RESIDE

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John Doe

The restaurant has been around for decades and if any has been around the Astoria area. They would know when it comes to this establishment they don’t take to kind too the colored community it’s sad that the restaurant has been around this long. While they willingly show only allow one demographic to eat comfortably at this restaurant

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Jada

No new affordable housing should be built unless it is truly affordable. These units are so expensive. What a waste of tax payer money

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Nate Worker

Good that it was voted down. The subway is crowded enough already; adding all these residents would only further strain an anlready overworked infrastructure.

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ZaZaa

I would hate to see Neptune go – so many memories. Thank you to CB 1. We will have to be vigilant about the future votes on this.

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Ryan

Hardship for nearby low rises? HARDSHIP? The only people in nearby low rises whom this would might harm are landlords who desperately want to avoid competition from apartment buildings with basic amenities, like laundry and reliable hot water. I don’t have sympathy for the renters interested in preserving their views of two parking lots and the tarred roofs of low-rise suburban-style commercial structures.

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emanuel Zepnick

Astoria , Is my 2nd Favorite Neighbor Hood in new York City , and on Hot Summer afternoons for many years after a Long Work Day I like To sit on the Bech Facing 23 rd ave relaxing and reading my Wall Street Journal while the Sun starts fadind in the Background with the manhattan skyline and Triborough Bridge fading in the Background . After the Sun faded away and Darkness apears I take a Short Ride to the Neptune Diner , where Good Healthy Food and a Friendly Staff awaits me . I am so proud that the Community Board gave thumbs down on this unnecessary complex that Does not benefit The Astoria Community . The Neptune Diner Must Be Saved its a Astoria Landmark , with loyal customers like myself . Unregulated Development is destroying the character of such a neighbord Gem Astoria Queens and New York City . Stand Tall and Stop Overdevelopment which is putting a strain on the infructure and drainage system and lowering the Quality of life . No onregulated Development or Manhattanization in ASTORIA .Thank Again Community Board for doing the Right thing and preserving Astorias Beloved neptune Diner.p

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Astoria Blvd Man

Hey Pat Macnamara, maybe we can chip in and get the Board to stop building in Astoria. That would be worth every penny.

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Ryan

Tom, there are dozens of buildings just as tall as the proposed structure up and down Astoria boulevard and 31st street. It’s not too tall for the area.

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Ryan

If you rent, you would benefit from the increased supply and competition from objectively better units. You should be happy that your landlord might be scared you could leave for something better!

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Sara Ross

I’ve lived in Queens my entire life. How many more residential buildings do we need?? They take away parking spots from people, yet keep building apartment buildings. Enough!!!!!!!! Plus most of these developers aren’t even from this country and don’t give a dam about neighborhoods or the people in them.

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Ryan

Over the past decade, NYC has grown by nearly a million people, but it hasn’t built half as much new housing. Who needs more housing? WE ALL DO (unless you enjoy paying higher rent or are a landlord).

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James & Maria Muso

The noise level will and dust levels for 4 year’s, our foundation will be compromised,can’t open our windows for air like now, the traffic will be outrageous. This area Can’t take that volume of traffic 24rd is a small street. 9 two family behind this site. Thank you

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Cassie

We need housing in NYC but you need to explore less developed areas… and you need a plan ..buoldings just keep going up…no thought to green spaces, school overcrowding, transportation …the infrastructure is not there in Astoria..Quality of life not just $$$$$$.

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Ryan

This area is comprised of two low-lying suburban-style commercial structures with adjoining parking lots. It is absolutely one of those underdeveloped areas the city should allow to be used to a fuller potential.

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Ryan

What’s incredible about this comment is how badly you miss the obvious: building up leaves more room for greenspace! Imagine if everybody on Long Island lived at the same density as Manhattan–we’d have parks the size of counties a short train ride away. Building up is the only answer to rising rents, climate change, and improving the god-awful housing stock around here.

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Pat Macnamara

The envelopes to Community Board 1 must have been very light for this to be rejected. Don’t let their concerns for the surrounding areas narrative fool you

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Anonymous

Ryan, you are obviously one of the people trying to put up this horrendous building. You could not be more obvious. What else is obvious is that you are not a true Astorian. Our neighborhood is fine as it is.

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