City Planning Hears Application for Mixed-Use Building in Rego Park

Rendering of the new building at 98-81 Queens Boulevard. Image Credit: NYC CPC.

The developers agreed to seek deeper affordability prior to the City Planning public hearing. On January 19, 2022, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing for a rezoning application that would allow for the construction of a mixed use residential and commercial building at 98-81 Queens Boulevard in Rego Park, Queens. The rezoning site is on a triangular shaped block with 66th Avenue to the north, 99th Street to the east, and Queens Boulevard to the southwest, and extends each street. The project site currently features one- and two- story commercial buildings, including the Tower Diner and former Trylon Theater. Several of the businesses on the block have already permanently closed. 

The proposed building will be fifteen stories tall, with 144 dwelling units, and will occupy the whole block. Upon the community’s request, the developer agreed to not create studios and instead create one-, two- and three-bedroom units.  Of the 144 units, 36 will fall under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) Option 1, which requires 25 percent of the building’s units to be permanently affordable at an average of up to 60 percent area median income. The permanently affordable units in this building will fall under three income ranges, at 40, 60 and 100 percent AMI. Sixteen units would be offered at 40 percent AMI, ten units at 60 percent AMI, and ten units at 100 percent AMI.  

At 40 percent AMI, a tenant could expect to pay $823 for a one-bedroom unit, $981 for a two-bedroom unit, and $1126 for a three-bedroom unit. At 100 percent AMI, the one-bedroom units would rent at $2,166 per month, the two-bedroom at $2,592 per month, and the three-bedroom at $2,987 per month. Previously, the developer had wanted to proceed with MIH Option 2, which requires 30 percent of units to be reserved as permanent affordable housing but at an average up to 80 percent AMI. By seeking Option 1, there are fewer permanently affordable units under MIH available, but more of the units are offered at a deeper affordability. According to Eric Palatnik, the developer’s representative, the changes in proposed affordability were finalized within a day or two ahead of the public hearing. 

The building will also feature 17,400 square feet of commercial space. The retail space would run along all of the Queens Boulevard side of the building and at the corner of 66th Avenue and 99th Street.  The residential entrance would be on 66th Avenue. Forty-five parking spaces would be available on the second floor, which would be accessible by a ramp from 99th Street. 

To facilitate the construction of this building, the applicants are requesting a change to the residential zoning and commercial zoning overlays that expand the allowed floor area ratio, provide wider possible commercial uses for the retail space, and reduce the required open space. 

Queens Community Board 6 issued a conditional unfavorable recommendation on December 8, 2021 with a vote of 32 opposed, and four in favor. The Community Board had pushed for the change to MIH Option 1, and wanted the developer to incorporate architectural elements of the Trylon Theater and Tower Diner, structures that are on the block that would be replaced by this new building. The Community Board also wanted to see commitments to minimize disruption to the neighborhood with construction and traffic, and possible preference to the existing tenants and retention of existing businesses and community spaces. 

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. issued a conditional unfavorable recommendation on January 7, 2022. According to Mr. Palatnik, the Borough President’s Office also had issues with the affordability. 

Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin asked about the issues raised by the Community Board. Renderings of the building show a clock on the face of the building in the corner where the Tower Diner, with its notable clock tower, would have stood. According to Mr. Palatnik, there were some discussions about moving the residential entrance to Queens Boulevard to utilize the marquee of the Trylon theater, but the Community Board never got back to them about that possibility. There were also talks of featuring pictures, images and other nostalgic items from the Tower Diner and Trylon Theater within the lobby of the new building. 

Mr. Palatnik addressed other issues from the Community Board, including the commitment to not block the bike lane on Queens Boulevard with construction and to help the Community Board conduct an independent traffic study of the traffic around the project site that includes issues that predate the project. Mr. Palatnik said they agreed to help with the consultation and coordination with the Department of Transportation on any actions relating to a traffic study.

Council Member Lynn Schulman, who represents Rego Park and Forest Hills, testified at the public hearing in support of the project. She supported the developer’s commitment to providing deeper affordability,  and noted that according to Department of Housing Preservation and Development data, only one other development with deep affordable housing was constructed within the boundaries of Queens Community Board 6 during the past eight years. 

A representative of 32BJ testified in support of the project as the developer committed to providing prevailing wages for its building service workers. 

No other members of the public spoke on this application. 

City Planning will vote on this application at a later date. 

By: Veronica Rose (Veronica is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School graduate, Class of 2018.)


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