Despite concerns about parking, Community Board 12 on May 18 voted in favor of a new affordable housing development planned for downtown Jamaica, citing the need for such space in light of the foreclosure crisis.
Neighborhood Housing Services of Jamaica wants to construct a 14-story, 93,104-square-foot building at the intersection of Archer Avenue and 165th Street. It would be composed of 7,200 feet of retail space and 89 apartments. It would replace a one-story retail building. CB 12 approved the plan 34-0 with two abstentions.
Patricia Kerr, program director at NHSJ, said the project would offer a lot of benefits to the community and called it a “win-win” situation.
“We are in need of housing,” she said. “We are seeing thousands and thousands of residents who have lost their housing and have nowhere to live, and we are bringing to the community affordable rental units.”
There will be 24 studios, 13 one-bedroom, 47 two-bedroom, and five three-bedroom apartments. The rent will be income driven and the eligible salary range is between $33,250 and $51,300 for a family of four. The highest rent will be $1,000 a month. The units are Workforce Development housing made available through the Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
NHSJ is seeking three variances — to reduce the minimum distance between the building and the lot line, to eliminate the off-street parking requirement and to exceed the ratio of floor area to lot size.
“Due to the site’s irregular shape, shallow width and location immediately adjacent to the Long Island Rail Road tracks, the owner is unable to construct a compliant development, which would meet its programmatic needs,” explained lawyer Steven Sinacori.
NHSJ has negotiated with the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. to get a 20 percent price reduction on monthly tenant parking at the nearby GJDC lot.
The maximum building height permitted in the downtown Jamaica district is 250 feet. The NHSJ structure will be 132 feet high. The required setback would be 15 feet on 165th Street and 10 feet on Archer Avenue, but NHSJ is asking for three-foot setbacks on either side.
“The reason we are going to say yes to this project is there is a great need for housing in the Jamaica area,” said Cardinal Sandiford, chairman of CB 12’s Land Use Committee. “Right now with the foreclosures, people don’t think of it, but there are tenants being foreclosed while they’re at it. If you own a two-family house and you are foreclosed on, your tenants are out in the cold too, and there has got to be someplace for people to live.”
The facade of the building will be a mix of metal, glass and stone that will bring a contemporary look to Archer Avenue, according to the architect, Ariel Aufgang. Residents will benefit from a host of amenities such as a laundry room, indoor and outdoor community space, retail stores, a gym in the basement and bicycle parking as required by zoning.
The structure will be designed as a green building with an exterior insulation rack, individual ventilation of bathrooms and kitchens through the side wall, Energy Star-rated appliances and lighting as well as low-flow plumbing fixtures throughout. There will be security cameras and “ample” lighting in all public areas of the building and the sidewalk.
When the units are made available through a lottery, there will be a 50 percent preference for residents of Jamaica and other parts of the CB 12 district.
“If they can fill all the units, then they can fill all the units,” Sinacori said. “The idea here is not to go out and try to find tenants from all over the city. Obviously you can’t not allow tenants from other parts of the city, or other parts of Queens, but you get 50 percent preference.”