Land Use Committee Approves Astoria Cove Project [Updated]

Architect rendering of the proposed Astoria Cove development project.  Image Credit:  Studio V

Architect rendering of the proposed Astoria Cove development project. Image Credit: Studio V

Approval came after negotiations increased the percentage of affordable housing.  On November 12, 2014 the City Council Land Use Committee voted 18-0 to approve the Astoria Cove development project, with modifications.  The vote was delayed several hours as negotiations between lead developer Alma Realty and Council Member Costa Constantinides continued into Wednesday afternoon over Astoria Cove’s housing affordability and other issues discussed in the initial hearing.

Under the modified plan, 5 percent of Astoria Cove’s housing units will be allocated for tenants making 60 percent of the Area Median Income, and 15 percent for tenants at 80 percent AMI.  Another 7 percent will be reserved for tenants at 125 percent AMI, for a total of 27 percent of Astoria Cove’s housing units reserved as affordable housing.  Of the affordable units, the city will subsidize building 2 percent of the units; the remaining 25 percent will receive no subsidy.  The plan also includes $5 million from the city to build a ferry dock for future expansion of ferry service to Astoria Cove, as well as $500,000 for renovating the NYCHA Astoria Houses’ senior center.

Council Member Constantinides celebrated the agreement for integrating Astoria Cove into the larger community.  “We have done away with the possibility of apartments being deemed affordable at $2,700 a month…this is not a castle [behind] a moat.”  In the preceding Zoning subcommittee hearing, Chair Council Member Mark Weprin read a statement by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz supporting the new development agreement.  “The increase of affordable housing to 27 percent is a landmark accomplishment.  Put…together with the commitment to build responsibly and to assure water transportation through a ferry, [Astoria Cove] becomes a project we can be proud of in the borough of Queens.”  Project counsel Howard Weiss spoke with CityLand and praised the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio and the City Council, saying “We achieved an unprecedented milestone in the drive to develop affordable housing.”

Council Member Jumaane D. Williams voted in favor, approving of detailed income targeting in the affordable housing allocations, but voiced concern that the agreement could have gone deeper into the affordability percentages than it did.  Council Member Williams also took issue with the idea Astoria Cove could serve as a prototype for all future developments, citing variation in land costs and subsidy needs between different communities.  “That notion is out there, that this particular project will define the direction that the Mayor’s housing plan is going, and as chair of [Council Committee on] Housing and Buildings, I emphatically reject that notion.”

The full City Council is expected to vote on the application during their next meeting on November 25.  [UPDATE] On November 25, 2014 the City Council approved the application by a 43-0 vote.

City Council: Public Hearing, LU 0126-2014, LU 0127-2014, LU 0128-2014, LU 0129-2014, LU 0130-2014, LU 0131-2014 (Nov. 12, 2014).

By: Michael Twomey (Michael is the CityLaw fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2014.)

[CORRECTION]  The Land Use vote was held November 12, 2014.  The original post gave the date as November 19, 2014.  We regret the error.

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