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Queens Chronicle

Elmhurst, Astoria plans heat up borough board

Meeting focused on two developments planned at Queens Center, Hallets Cove

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Posted: Thursday, February 13, 2014 2:00 am | Updated: 11:24 am, Thu Feb 20, 2014.

Two major construction projects were the focal points of Monday night’s occasionally contentious Queens Borough Board meeting at Borough Hall.

Under discussion at the meeting — the second under Borough President Melinda Katz — was the Mattone Group Development Project, which involves the construction of three restaurants on land between the Queens Center Mall and the Long Island Expressway.

As reported last year in the Queens Chronicle, the city’s Economic Development Corp. sold the property — formerly a parking lot — to the Mattone Group in 2001 for $2.2 million. Mattone’s contract with EDC contained several restrictions which, if not met, entitled the EDC to buy back the property for $1. Mattone did not comply with the restrictions, but the EDC did not buy back the land.

Last February, Mattone signed a new contract with the EDC in which it paid $3 million to modify the original deed, allowing it to build the restaurants there.

According to a representative for Mattone, construction on the so-called “Restaurant Row” began in 2013, with a planned opening date set for this year.

Some officials, however, were not happy about that process.

“This is the best example of how not to do a project,” said Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), igniting sparks between him and Mattone’s president Carl Mattone. “How a project of this size could happen without any community consultation is beyond me,” Dromm added. “Communication with the community would have been much appreciated. Good developers would inform their communities.”

Dromm said he had heard about the project through the media.

Katz interjected, promising to arrange a meeting with all concerned parties, adding, “There is an expectation that there will be community involvement.”

“It’s incumbent on the EDC to notify the community, not us,” Mattone said after the meeting. “[Dromm] is justifiably right. But he’s a little misleading when he says he didn’t know anything.”

Dromm responded that he didn’t oppose the project, but just wanted more community input.

Also under discussion was the $1 billion Hallets Point Project, scheduled to be built on the waterfront south of Astoria Park.

Joel Bergstein, president of Lincoln Equities Group, the real estate company in charge of the development, said the undertaking is “a gratifying project” for him.

“We started with the community, gained community support on every level, and we continue to make a commitment to that community,” he said.

Approximately 2,200 waterfront apartments would be spread among seven buildings ranging from 11 to 31 stories high. Twenty percent would be designated for affordable housing. New and expanded bus service and access to the N, Q, 7 and F subway stations as well as an effort to bring the East River Ferry to the peninsula. A site has been reserved for a new K-through-8 public school, proposed at the nearby New York City Housing Authority campus.

The new affordable housing units would be targeted to seniors, with preference for Astoria Houses residents. The plan calls for no displacement or rent increases for residents of Astoria Houses and also promises an increase in jobs for local residents. It is estimated that 1,400 construction jobs would be created as well as 300 new permanent jobs in the area.

The design includes enhanced access to the waterfront via a large esplanade that would connect Hallets Playground to Whitey Ford Field, retail services along 27th Avenue and 1st Street, including a bank, drug store, coffee shop, bakery and restaurants, as well as a supermarket which, according to Bergstein, is “sorely needed in that community.”

Also scheduled for construction are 1,176 “wrapped” structured parking spaces on the waterfront, in addition to replacement surface parking on the NYCHA campus for parking spaces lost because of the project.

According to LEG, construction would begin in 2015 and be completed in 2022.

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