The five-block housing development proposal for Astoria faces a major obstacle after Queens Borough President Donovan Richards failed to approve the project on Thursday.
The proposal for Innovation QNS includes construction of more than a dozen new buildings with a projected 2,845 mixed-income apartments. It would sit on a largely industrial corner of Astoria that stretches from 37th Street to Northern Boulevard.
The borough president’s recommendation is advisory in nature, but it could carry significant influence as the proposal moves on to the City Planning Commission.
In his rejection, Richards pointed to an inadequate number of affordable housing units in the proposal.
“Today, New York City residents continue to experience a multitude of intersecting crises: housing affordability, food insecurity, evictions, and stagnating wages for the lowest earners,” Richards wrote in his recommendation. “Blindly building more market-rate housing will not fix these long-standing, systemic issues.”
He also pointed out local opposition, including from Community Board 1, which represents the area of the proposed site and voted against the project in a non-binding vote in June.
His recommendations include committing to make 50% of the residential area permanently affordable, up from the proposed 25%, which would yield about 711 affordable units. He also recommended the developers expand the lowest affordable income bracket to individuals and families earning 30% of area median income or the median income of a household in a given region.
“The Community Board and local Astoria residents have made it clear that the project feels out of character with the Surrounding Area and does not offer enough affordable housing regardless of the amenities tied to the Proposed Development,” he writes in his recommendation.
Supporters of the project point to the 2,800 new residential units as a way to offset the city’s housing problem, as well as the plan’s two acres of open space, which includes lawns, a playground and a dog park. The plan also includes a community hub, and 200,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space.
“There’s a housing crisis in this city, and we believe that creating more than 2,800 apartments in an area where very few exist today is a part of the solution—it’s not the only solution, but it can help to alleviate the upward pressure on rents,” Jay Martin of BedRock Real Estate Partners, one of the firms behind the project, which also includes Silverstein Properties, and Kaufman Astoria Studios, said at a May community board hearing.
Tracey Capune, vice president of Kaufman Astoria Studios, said they are “disappointed that despite significant progress in addressing the Borough President’s concerns – including agreeing to a substantial increase in the number of affordable homes and to deliver a meaningful number of those homes at the deeply affordable ‘extremely low-income’ band – we were unable to win his support in advance of his recommendation.”
The proposal now moves to the City Planning Commission, where they have 60 days to review it. If the proposal passes, it then moves on to a vote in the City Council.