City Planning Hears Application for Two Mixed-Use Buildings in Ravenswood

Rendering of one of the new proposed buildings. Image Credit: NYC CPC.

The buildings would provide residential, commercial, and industrial spaces. On May 11, 2022, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing for an application that would facilitate the development of two eight-story mixed use buildings that will offer residential, commercial, industrial and office spaces in Ravenswood, Queens. The rezoning area consists of the entire block bounded by 33rd Road to the north, 34th Avenue to the south, 11th Street to the west and 12th Street to the east. The two buildings take up a majority of space on the block, with the exclusion of a portion of the midblock facing 11th Street. The current block has a vacant lot and warehouses. 

The two buildings will have a combined total of 332 units. The first building will have 194 units, with 48 permanently affordable units through Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Option 1, requiring 25 percent of units to be permanently affordable at an average 60 percent area median income (AMI). Building 1 will have 14 studios (three permanently affordable); 88 one-bedrooms (22 permanently affordable); 68 two-bedrooms (17 permanently affordable); and 24 three-bedrooms (six permanently affordable). 

The first building will have almost 90,000 square feet of commercial or industrial floor space dedicated to local retail, an artist studio space, the Andromeda Community Initiative (ACI) construction trade school, and York Studios film/television production trade school. There will be a 100 space parking garage in the cellar, accessible via 12th Street. 

The second building will have 138 units, with 34 permanently affordable through Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Option 1. There will be ten studios (3 permanently affordable); sixty one-bedroom units (15 permanently affordable), 46 two-bedroom units (11 permanently affordable; and 22 three-bedroom units (five permanently affordable). 

There will be over 58,800 square feet of commercial and industrial floor space for new retail, a food distributor, and technology, media, advertising and information office space. The building will also feature 10,000 square feet of local non-profit organization space. A 60 space parking garage will be in the cellar, accessible via 11th Street. 

Between both buildings, 27 units will be at 40 percent AMI and 80 percent AMI, and another 28 units will be at 60 percent AMI. At 40 percent AMI, rents can range from $772 to $1,126. At 60 percent AMI, rents can range from $1,190 to $1,746. At 80 percent AMI, rents can range from $1,608 to $2,367. 

To facilitate this project, the applicants are seeking to create a Special Mixed Use District for manufacturing and residential uses. The Special Mixed Use district allows for more uses than a standard commercial overlay. 

Queens Community Board 1 ultimately rejected the application. The community board liked the addition of trade schools and job creation created by the new development, but some members were concerned the affordability did not match what current residents make, making even the affordable units inaccessible. Other community members preferred to have more units that could cater to families, an adjustment the applicants made at the time of the City Planning public hearing.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. approved the project with conditions, requesting that the applicant team have goals for local hiring, community engagement, and use partnerships to arrange job fairs at nearby NYCHA campuses to inform residents of job opportunities. 

At the public hearing, Chair Dan Garodnick asked about the prospective uses of the space and how certain the applicants were about the plans for the trade and media schools. The applicants mentioned that some letters of intent had been signed, but even in the event that those placements didn’t work out the special mixed use district would enable a variety of uses that would match the surrounding neighborhood, which is a mix of manufacturing and residential districts. 

Commissioner Larisa Ortiz asked about previous concerns she raised during the certification process about the use of retail space in these buildings. She asked about the prospect of customer demand for retail space on this block given it is not in a heavily trafficked area. The applicants described the current area and how the closest corner grocery store is about a quarter mile away, and only a few other small retail stores and cafes in the nearby area. The applicants expect the existing residential presence from nearby co-ops and NYCHA residences, and the residents of these new buildings to patronize the new retail stores. The applicants mentioned that, anecdotally, in conversations with the community board and local tenant associations, many people were excited at the prospect of new local retail. 

Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin asked about the industrial space for the trade schools and if that space would replace current facilities or allow the programs to expand. For the York Studios trade school, the space would allow them to shift to an educational space for a trade school program, as they currently operate and produce media in two studios. The ACI construction trade school would be moving operations to this new space from its current location in Long Island City. 

Commissioner Hayes Levin also asked about flooding protection measures and resiliency given the rezoning site’s location in a flood zone, as this block had been heavily impacted by Superstorm Sandy. The applicants discussed dry floodproofing requirements and features like rain gardens, pervious pavement, and sustainability features like energy efficient appliances and a solar green roof. The cellar parking garages will include charging for electric vehicles and the buildings will have bicycle parking. 

A representative of 32BJ testified in support of the application for their commitment to create prevailing wage jobs for the building’s service workers. Several members of the community testified in support of the application for the addition of needed affordable housing in western Queens, the creation of jobs and training opportunities, and for the spaces provided to creatives and nonprofits. 

No members of the public spoke in opposition to the application.

The City Planning Commission will vote on this application on 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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