Aug. 1, 2022 By Christian Murray
The fate of a developer’s plan to build 1,340 apartments on the Halletts Point peninsula now rests in the hands of the city council and Council Member Tiffany Cabán, who announced Sunday that the project still does not contain enough affordable housing.
The project, which the City Planning Commission voted in favor of last week, is scheduled to be voted on by the full city council in September. The vote marks the final step in the rezoning process and a yes vote would mean the project can proceed. The plan has already been approved by Community Board 1 and the Queens Borough President, both providing non-binding recommendations.
The rezoning application involves the construction of three residential towers—one 22 stories, another 31 stories and a third 35 stories—on a 3.8-acre industrial site located at 3-15 26th Avenue, just a block away from the Durst Organization’s massive Halletts Point project.
The developer, listed as Astoria Owners Inc., requires several zoning changes to move forward with the plan—aptly called Halletts North—such as changing its permitted zoning from manufacturing (M1-1) to mixed-use residential (R7-3/C2-4).
But the amount of affordable housing is the sticking point for Cabán. The application in its present form would see 25 percent of the units (approximately 335 units) offered at an average Area Median Income (AMI) of 60 percent, equating to about $80,000 for a family of four.
The number of affordable units meets the minimum threshold requirement in accordance with city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing requirements.
“I still have significant concerns about the proposed affordability,” wrote Cabán in her weekly newsletter Sunday.
“The applicant is currently proposing that 25 percent of the total units will be affordable, on average, at 60 percent of the Area Median Income,” she said. “I am continuing to fight for deeper, and more expansive, affordable units from the applicant and will not support the project if we don’t do better.”
A spokesperson for Cabán, however, told the Queens Post Monday that she has yet to come up with a hardline number as to what she deems acceptable. “We’re in consultation with the council’s land-use staff and community members to develop a counter-proposal,” her spokesperson Jesse Myerson said.
Cabán is not alone in her desire for more affordable housing.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards when he made his recommendation in support of the project did say that the developer should commit to exploring deeper levels of affordability and increasing the number of affordable units.
The community board, in its narrow 19-14 vote in support of the application, also made mention of a need for greater affordability, with some of its members opposed to the project arguing that it lacked enough affordable housing.
“While it is going to be lovely for the wealthy and the few who may get an affordable apartment…the developers are not providing what people need and are creating greater inequity, particularly in this area,” said board member Evie Hantzopoulos prior to the April 19 vote.
But Jay Valgora, of Studio V Architecture, the firm designing the project, fired back at that meeting saying that the development would not be displacing anyone and that it is adding to the housing stock.
“This is a site that was empty and used for manufacturing. It was polluted and loaded with PCBs,” Valgora said. “We are taking an empty, dead industrial space that was not being used and was heavily polluted—and cleaning it up and building hundreds and hundreds of housing units.”
The project, he noted, would also transform about 40,000 square feet of the site into a public waterfront promenade, which would be accessible through a new road at 3rd Street. The project would also include 3,600 square feet of retail space and 9,700-square-feet for community facilities.
The outcome of the city council’s vote in September is likely to be determined by Cabán. The city council typically votes in lockstep with the representative where a development is proposed in what’s known as member deference.
However, in Cabán’s newsletter, she laid doubt as to whether member deference will apply in this case.
“It’s important to note, however, that my support of or opposition to this project does not necessarily guarantee a certain outcome,” Cabán wrote. “And if the Council simply fails to bring it to a vote, the decision by the City Planning Commission stands and the project is officially approved.”
Cabán’s spokesperson said Monday that member deference was no certainty.
“It’s a faulty norm that has not been universally followed,” Myerson said. “This council is [also] full of new members who ran criticizing member deference, so we’re not taking anything for granted.”
25% is pretty good. That area right now is a wasteland and this would be a dramatic improvement.
This is would be an insane project to block. We need housing at all levels, not only low income.