The project will add privately owned public open space and local businesses to service residents and visitors of the neighborhood. On October 17, 2019, the City Council voted to approve the rezoning of an irregularly-shaped block bounded by Vernon Boulevard and Broadway to the north, 33rd Road to the south, 11th Street to the east, and 10th Street to the west in Astoria, Queens. The applicant proposed to rezone the block from a residential low density district to a residential medium density district. The rezoning would also allow for commercial use on the northern part of the block. The rezoning will facilitate the development of three mixed-use buildings which will have a combination of residential use, commercial use, community facilities, and open space. The block is currently occupied by a one-story garage and warehouse. Cipico Construction is the project’s applicant. On September 11, 2019, the City Planning Commission voted to approve the application. For CityLand’s prior coverage on this decision, click here.
On September 18, 2019, the Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises held a public hearing. Frank St. Jacques of Akerman LLP presented the application. St. Jacques stated that the three buildings will cover a total of 315,966 square feet of the area. Building A, which faces 10th Street, will be five stories tall. Building B, which faces 11th Street, will be nine stories tall. Building C, which faces Vernon Boulevard and Broadway, will be fourteen stories tall.
All three buildings will have community facility space and there will be an underground parking lot for all three buildings that can be entered into from 10th Street. Building C will also have 11,236 square feet of ground-floor commercial space along Vernon Boulevard which will service both residents and visitors of the Noguchi Museum and Socrates Sculpture Park, two local cultural institutions west of the block.
The buildings will have a total of 330 housing units, with 92 units set aside as permanently affordable. At the public hearing, St. Jacques explained that Queens Community Board One voted to approve the project but had concerns about the affordability of the units. Initially, the applicant committed to only using MIH Option Two, which sets aside affordable housing for families making, on average, a maximum annual income of $62,000. The Board suggested that the applicant use MIH Option One instead, which sets aside affordable housing for families making, on average $47,000. To address this concern, St. Jacques explained that the applicant proposed to have 34 units in Buildings A and B to be affordable under Option One and 58 units in Building C to be affordable under Option Two.
The project will also have a total of 33,604 square feet of open space with approximately 17,700 square feet for a landscaped public open space on the corner of 33rd Road and 10th Street. St. Jacques explained that the space will be designated as a Privately Owned Public Spaces (POPS). The space will have benches and seating for passive recreation and will allow flexible use for event programming.
St. Jacques stated that the applicant partnered with labor union, 32BJ SEIU, to bring union workers for the project’s construction and HANAC, Inc, a local social services organization, to manage the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Program.
In response to Chair and Council Member Francisco Moya’s question regarding the public open space operation, St. Jacques stated that the space will be subjected to Privately Owned Public Spaces regulations, which means that the open space will have POPS signage and will be registered on the POPS database. The current and subsequent property owners are bound by a restrictive declaration to maintain and upkeep the space.
Council Member Moya followed up with a question on whether the open space was required to be open to the public and St. Jacques explained that there was no requirement but the decision to have the open space for the public comes from an agreement with the community and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.
On October 3, 2019, the Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises voted to approve the application with the modification that all housing units will be affordable under only MIH Option One instead of using both Options One and Two.
On October 10, 2019, the Council Land Use Committee voted to approve the project with the exception of Council Member Inez Barron. Council Member Barron explained that the project had more market-rate housing than affordable housing and should have been more affordable for the community.
At the stated meeting, the Council voted to approve the project.
By: May Vutrapongvatana (May is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019).