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Queens Chronicle

Queens BP Katz recommends disapproval of Astoria Cove project

Afforable housing, community concerns and transportation cited as some of the reasons why

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Posted: Thursday, July 31, 2014 12:00 pm

The proposed Astoria Cove development plan has hit a snag.

Borough President Melinda Katz has recommended the disapproval of the controversial project, citing community concerns, insufficient mass transit in the area and not enough proposed affordable housing units among other reasons.

Released late Thursday morning, Katz applauded the project being the first in the city to mandate affordable housing in her recommendation, but her worries over multiple aspects of the project were too great to warrant her approval of the plan.

"The proposed redevelopment of the Astoria Cove site would revitalize an otherwise underutilized Queens waterfront," Katz said. "However, in bringing in hundreds of new residents into Astoria, the needs and concerns of existing residents... must be addressed.

"At this time," she continued, "there are still outstanding issues with this project which must be meaningfully addressed by whichever entity implements and constructs this proposed project in the future."

In her recommendation, Katz noted that an influx of hundreds of people into the area would be "particularly hard felt" because of the peninsula's limited network of streets.

Also, she cited the already overcrowded nearby N and Q train stations and infrequent bus service as a concern that must be addressed before the plan moves forward.

In terms of affordable housing, Katz called for more units than the 1,723 proposed, 20 percent of the residential dwellings that have been proposed. She did not specify a desired number of residences or a specific percentage of units she would like to see designated as affordable.

The Borough President recommended that the proposed school, which was planned to be constructed in the final phase of the project, be built first to meet the existing need for more seats in School District 30.

When the plan came to Katz two weeks ago, multiple union members at the hearing demanded that Alma Realty, the project's developer, provide well-paying, safe construction jobs with benefits. She echoed that sentiment Thursday, saying the project will only succeed "if it is built by the most skilled and professional workers to assure the quality, durability and safety of the construction."

"The developer of this site must work with the construction and service workers to provide prevailing wages for development and living wages for permanent workers," Katz said. "There should also be provisions for onsite training and apprenticeships for area residents that will provide practical work experience and lead to careers which provide a middle class income."

The plan will also appear before the Department of City Planning, before it goes before the City Council Land Use Committee.

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