Workforce Housing Scrapped From Proposed Astoria Development

Rendering of proposed development Image Credit: City Planning

City Council Subcommittee announces modification to Mega LLC’s proposed development. On January 30, 2020 the City Council Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises approved Mega LLC’s ULURP application to rezone Block 769 in Astoria, Queens with a modification to the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing component. The rezoning would help facilitate the construction of an 8-story, mixed-use development. Block 769 in Queens is bounded by Ditmars Avenue to the north, 23rd Avenue to the south, 46th street to the east and 45th street to the west.  The subcommittee held a public hearing on the application on January 14, 2020 and City Planning approved this application on January 8, 2020. To read Cityland’s prior coverage of this application click here.

In addition to the 8-story development, the rezoning seeks to make the current residential and commercial uses on the block conforming. On the north portion of the site is Pistilli Grand Manor, a six-story residential condo building and on the south portion of the site are one to two-family residential homes and Joe’s Garage Bar. Neither the northern or southern uses on the Block are permissible under the blocks current manufacturing and low residential zoning scheme.

The proposed 8-story development would be on the midblock portion of the block where two one-story manufacturing buildings currently exist. The development’s design features two separate building sections, both setback from the property line. Each structure would have a six-story base with two setback floors above. The two building sections would share a greenroof courtyard at the second floor. Residents will have access to a fitness center, residents’ lounge, playroom, party room, office center and landscaped terraces. Approximately 6,300 square feet of commercial space will be available on 45th street. The other major component of the development will be the 250 seat/11,000 square foot community theater for the Pancyprian Association of America. The theater will be available to local community groups, dance groups, youth orchestras.  Presenting for the applicants was Jaclyn Scarinci of Akerman LLP, Emanuel Kokinakis from Mega LLC, and Paola Duran from HANAC, Inc.

Courtyard Rendering Image Credit: City Planning

At the vote, Council Subcommittee Chair Francisco Moya announced the Mandatory Inclusionary housing request was modified from the Workforce Housing Option to Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Option 1. The Workforce Housing Option was discussed at length during both the December 4, 2019, City Planning hearing and the subcommittee hearing. The Workforce Housing Option is intended to provide housing for middle class individuals like firefighters, teachers, nurses and police officers but is on average offered to higher income earners than the other Mandatory Inclusionary Housing options. Workforce Housing requires that that 30 percent of the total units be offered at an average of 115 percent Area Median Income, while Mandatory Inclusionary Housing Option 1 requires that 25 percent of the units be offered at an average of 60 percent AMI. The applicants originally proposed 88 residential units with 28 offered as Workforce Housing Units. Council Member Moya did not discuss how the modification might affect that unit breakdown.

Public Hearing

At the public hearing, Paola Duran from HANAC Inc. took the time to explain to the subcommittee their organization’s mission and how they would be involved in the project. HANAC’s goal is to serve the needs of vulnerable populations throughout the city and will thus be responsible for ensuring that the affordable housing units are rented in compliance with the zoning provisions and guidelines. They will also be marketing, processing applications, and explaining the eligibility requirements to potential tenants.

Council Member Antonio Reynoso who represents parts of Bushwick, Ridgewood and Williamsburg was vehemently against the decision to use the Workforce Housing Option. He stated “I do not feel that this is a project that will serve a crisis in our city. We have over 70,000 people living in homeless shelters. Workforce housing should have never been committed in Mandatory Inclusionary Housing.” He added, “I will not be voting on any project that uses the workforce housing option.”

Council Member Barry Grodenchik, who represents District 23 in Queens, also commented on the work force housing option. He disagreed with Council Member Reynoso, stating he sees the need to provide for members in the community like firefighters and nurses. Grodenchik supported the decision to use the workforce housing option in this project.

Ten members of the public spoke at the public hearing, all of whom supported the project.

The Land Use committee will vote on this application before it goes to a full council vote.

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)




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