Yes, more drama surrounding the affordable housing at Astoria Cove! Crain’s reports that the Department of Housing Preservation and Development made a map-reading error when calculating the affordable housing requirements at Astoria Cove. Initially, Alma proposed to allocate 20 percent of the units to households making no more than 80 percent of the area median income ($68,700 for a family of four). Many local pols and housing advocates argued those numbers aren’t good enough, and this new revelation by the city will change the requirements somewhat. Outdated maps indicated that Alma Realty was not required to include affordable housing to get a state property tax abatement. But updated maps show that Alma is required to provide 20 percent affordable housing, but it must be no more than 60 percent (down from 80 percent) of the area median income.
The City Council plans to work this into their plan with Alma before the council takes its final vote on the matter in November. According to Crain’s, “The revelation may give the council more ammunition to ask for more affordable units, something it appeared bent on doing after a recent hearing.”
Two interesting stories concerning Astoria popped up in the news this morning. The first is an article by Queens Courier on the new development at 14-07 Broadway, called The Baron. The developers released the above rendering, designed by Raymond Chan, and the finished product will be a 73,500-square-foot, 77-unit condo development. The one-, two- and three-bedroom units will be sized around 600, 1,000 and 1,550 square feet, and each one will come with a terrace. Amenities include a garden, roof terrace, kid’s play area, gym and bicycle racks. No word on pricing yet, but the building should be ready for occupancy around the spring of 2016.
Next, the New York Times highlighted Ditmars, where a wave of younger residents are moving in to rent and young families (attracted to Public School 122) are looking to buy. Two-family homes in the area now sell for as much as $900,000 to $1,000,000, with rentals averaging at $1,600 to $1,800 a month for a one bedroom, $2,000 to $2,500 for a two bedroom and $3,000 for a three bedroom. As a longtime resident told the Times, “A lot of the young people who don’t want to live in the city and pay high prices are coming in here. It’s like what happened to Williamsburg.”
Earlier this month, a truck hit the historic Steinway Street clock in Astoria and it was badly damaged, as you can see above. But as We Heart Astoria reports, repairs to the clock are now in order. (Just no timeline for when it will reclaim its home on Steinway Street.) The clock was landmarked in 1981 and reinstalled in 2008 after a series of repairs. We hope it’s back up on Steinway sooner rather than later…
As the City Council’s final decision on the Astoria Cove development nears, The Real Deal rounded up the key players of this huge decision. Borough President Katz is in the running; she notably denied development plans due to lack of affordable housing and its negative effect on transportation. She wants a third of the 1,700-unit complex priced below market rate, not just 20 percent like the developer proposed. Councilman Costa Constantinides also emerged as a major player — that’s him pictured above, discussing Astoria Cove with NY1. He is also calling for more affordable units with stricter price regulations. His City Council vote has a huge influence over the rest of the council members, and has led the City Council to push for more affordable housing. TRD also lists Community Board 1 Chairman Vinicio Donato, who voted against the development proposal as well. Although at this point, the Community Board doesn’t have much of a say in what the City Council decides.
Then there’s Queens Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jack Friedman (who supports the plan) and City Planning Commission Chairman Carl Weisbrod (City Planning Commission already approved the proposal). Finally, there’s the development side, with Alma Realty’s Steve Valiotis and John Mavroudis and the project architect Jay Valgora of Studio V. The developers are stressing that the development will bring life to a now-desolate area, open up the waterfront and bring public transportation like a ferry terminal and shuttle buses.
This just in: the Department of Transportation announced a Citi Bike expansion to Long Island City, Queensbridge and Astoria by the end of 2015. (Other neighborhoods include Bed Stuy, Greenpoint, Crown Heights and Park Slope.) The announcement isn’t a total surprise, but the timeline is new. It’s also too bad that Sunnyside was left out, as the neighborhood was expected to be included in the initial Queens rollout. No word yet on the number of stations or where they will be located, but feel free to start suggesting locations. Stay tuned for more details… UPDATE: The New York Times reports that the program will expand to 12,000 bikes at more than 700 stations. Prices for an annual membership will rise almost 60 percent from $95 to $149.
Give the people of Astoria a dog run, already! Residents already started a petition asking for “an adequate area to allow their dogs to socialize and exercise off-leash,” now DNAinfo reports that local dog owners scouted out two potential spaces under the Triborough Bridge. The locations in question are Triborough Bridge Playground C and Triborough Bridge Playground D, fenced-in lots on Hoyt Avenue between Crescent and 23rd Streets that now hold handball and basketball courts. According to the chairman of the Astoria Dog Owners Association, “Most of the time it’s either locked up, or there’s hardly anybody using that area.” The group is also willing to split the space with the courts.
The Dog Owners Association received a promising statement from the Parks Department, in which it would “consider allowing a dog run in Astoria with the approval of the Community Board, and the presence of an organized community group that could maintain the dog run and enforce rules regarding its use.” So the association plans to step up and propose the dog run in an upcoming round of participatory budgeting votes, in which the community will decide how to spend $1,000,000.
Earlier this week, a number of City Council members shot down the Astoria Cove proposal at a hearing due to the lack of affordable housing, the developer’s track record with other developments, and its history of underpaying black and Hispanic construction workers. (Pictured above, Council Members Elizabeth Crowley and Costa Constantinides testifying.) Council Member Constantinides — who represents Astoria Cove’s district — has been a vocal detractor of the affordable housing proposal, and it looks like the rest of the City Council will follow Constantinides’ lead. According to the Daily News, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said the City Council will oppose the development unless Alma Realty adds more that 20 percent affordable housing, as initially proposed. “To the extent we can be supportive to the Councilmember in his continuing expressions of concern, and ensuring that it’s heard, that’s what we’re doing,” she stated.
No details on what new plan will emerge from the ashes. The City Council is expected to work on a deal with the developers and pass a final vote by early November.
Introducing Q.E.D., a new Astoria venue that plans to host arts and crafts, stand-up comedy, tastings, poetry slams, game nights, walking tours, storytelling, gardening, and much, much more. The owner, Queens resident Kambri Crews, has dubbed it an “after-school space for grown ups” — a sort of all-inclusive art and performance space that will appeal to many. The classes and workshops will be priced affordably and will not require long commitments, and the space will be open to all different types of performers. (It’s also available to rent out for private events.) Q.E.D. is located a few blocks from the Astoria/Ditmars subway stop, at 27-16 23rd Avenue between 27th and 28th Streets.
Events at Q.E.D. will start up in early November. Upcoming classes include stand-up comedy for beginners, PR and Marketing 101, Intro to American Sign Language and Intro to Humor Writing. Upcoming shows include open mic nights, adult story time, book releases, podcast recordings and musical performances. Seems to us like an awesome addition to the neighborhood. GMAP
The Criterion Group just paid $57,000,000 for the large parcel at 11-12 30th Drive, bordered by Vernon Boulevard, 30th Drive, 31st Avenue and 12th Street. The property, a former plastics factory now occupied by a grocery wholesaler, hit the market in August for $60,000,000. Crain’s reports that “the property can accommodate residential buildings of up to 10 stories, and totaling 460,000 square feet, if a component of affordable housing is included.” The Criterion Group has not announced plans for what it has in store.
The location is directly north of Socrates Sculpture Park and directly south of Hallets Cove, where the Astoria Cove and Hallets Point developments are both in the works.
Astoria Bike snapped the above photo of a two-way, green bike lane just painted along Vernon Boulevard. (There was a one-way, unpainted lane there before.) Lookin’ good! As the blog says, “When this is done, one will be able to bike all the way from Astoria to downtown Brooklyn more or less on a dedicated bike line.”