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.”
This morning, City Council will hold a hearing for Alma Realty to propose the mega development known as Astoria Cove — the Queens development that gets more controversial by the day. The main point of contention, as previously reported, is affordable housing, but electeds and tenant organizers protested something new yesterday at City Hall: Alma Realty’s track record in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. As the New York Times reports, Alma plans to de-regulate around 700 rental units it owns in the neighborhood. According to the Times, protesters “urged the City Council not to approve the Astoria Cove project unless Alma Realty rolls back the rent increases in Crown Heights and addresses concerns about its plans in Queens.” There were also charges of the developer’s history underpaying black and Hispanic construction workers, while labor leaders called for union labor to build out the development.
And here’s an interesting tidbit from the Times: “In a neighborhood [Crown Heights] where affordable housing fights usually center on longtime minority residents, many of the Jewish Hospital tenants are white professionals who moved into the neighborhood only recently — a sign of how Brooklyn’s rapidly accelerating gentrification is pushing out even the gentrifiers.”
It’s unclear what will happen today at the City Council hearing, but it’ll likely be packed with protesters. The Community Board and Borough President both denied the building plans, but the City Planning Commission approved it in September. As it stands, the 1,723-unit development will hold 20 percent affordable units.
Friends have mentioned that there’s a group of people who regularly fish the waters of Halletts Cove, found on the East River coastline here in Astoria on Vernon Boulevard between 31st Avenue and 30th Drive. People fish all over the New York Harbor, of course, and will even dip a hooked line into my beloved Newtown Creek while seeking dinner – if you can believe that. Environmental officialdom sets forth a series of recommendations and rules for the consumption of fish and invertebrates captured hereabouts, which you can read for yourself right here. The same information is presented to you when obtaining a fishing license, which the folks in Albany presume the lady in the shot above has obviously attained. There are a couple of signs found at Halletts Cove advising against fishing here, but these signs are in English, and this is Astoria.
As you might guess from the clothing worn by the woman in the shot above, English is likely not her native tongue, and an attempt I made at conversation with her confirmed that assumption.
She had several traps played out in the water, of the type which you’d use to snare “killies” or minnows — this sort of thing. Friends who frequent this spot have told me that this lady, and several others, are harvesting fish from the East River on a regular if not daily basis.
Next week, the City Council will begin hearings on the Astoria Cove plan, which proposes 1,700 new units for the Astoria waterfront. (A final vote from the City Council isn’t expected until November.) As the moment of truth nears, opposition to the development remains strong. The Daily News reports that Councilman Costa Constantinides “doesn’t support the luxury Astoria Cove project in its current form, as the project moves toward a vote that hinges on his support.” Constantinides has criticized the plan for its lack of affordable housing, also pointing out that an “affordable” one bedroom at the development will be priced up to $2,700 a month. As the News says, the rest of the City Council tends to defer to the local council member’s vote, so Constantinides’ opinion holds some serious sway. The City Planning Commission, however, already voted to approve the development, with praise coming from the Mayor’s office.
Also the Queens Courier reported that yesterday, Build Up NYC held a rally against the development outside City Hall. Build Up NYC, which represents the union 32BJ, opposed the lack of affordable housing and is pushing for more union jobs at the project. Constantinides expressed his support of the rally but did not attend.
Despite recent progress on the seven-building, 2,400-unit Hallets Point development, The Real Deal reports on a holdup for the developers. Last month the Durst Organization paid over $100,000,000 for a 90 percent stake in the development site, but they have yet to close on the last three parcels needed to begin development. Here’s what happened: Lincoln Equities Group (who sold the majority stake to Durst) spent the last seven years compiling properties in the area, while going through the public review process to get the development approved. As part of the sale to Durst, Lincoln passed along a contract to secure 1-02 26th Avenue, between 1st and 2nd Streets — it was supposed to close in September for $7,500,000. The owners of 1-02 26th Avenue, however, balked, forcing a court case and what seems to be a lot of messy legal issues. We’ll see how it all plays out, and if it’ll significantly delay the building process — at this point it’s unclear how long a delay this could be.
The 3rd Annual Astoria Arts Festival kicks off this Friday, October 10th and lasts 10 whole days. We Heart Astoria published a very helpful guide on the events to expect in the coming days, which are spread out over 30 local venues. You can also check out a full schedule at the Astoria Arts Festival website. Events include a kickoff party this Friday at Front Toward Enemy, a collection of music, vendors and artists at Singlecut Brewery, an Art Walk at different Astoria businesses, and a closing party on Saturday, October 18th at Old Prague. Can’t wait!