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Queens Chronicle

Astoria Cove project goes before City Planning

Developers seek go-ahead after Katz disapproves Astoria waterfront plan

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Posted: Thursday, August 7, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 12:14 pm, Thu Aug 14, 2014.

After recently being recommended for disapproval by Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Community Board 1, the 2.2 million-square-foot, 1,723-unit Astoria Cove proposal came before the City Planning Commission on Wednesday.

Howard Weiss, from Davidoff Hutcher & Citron, representing the developers, was questioned by commissioners on affordable housing, a potential school site in the plan, the use of union workers and other aspects of the proposal as part of the Uniformed Land Use Review Procedure and dozens of people — mostly in opposition — turned out to get more answers.

“Astoria Cove would be the crown jewel in the reclamation of the Queens waterfront,” Weiss told the commission.

Though many people, including critics of the project, agree the development of the waterfront is a good idea, there is a growing concern over the number of affordable housing units.

The number was recently brought back to the original 345 units, or 25 percent of the residential project.

On July 31, Katz issued nine different disapproval recommendations.

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

“At this time, 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.”

CB 1 members expressed similar concerns when they read aloud their decision to disapprove the project.

Still, Katz and the community board’s decisions are purely advisory. The CPC, followed by the City Council will determine if the project will come to fruition.

A major player in the process is the area’s Councilman, Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), whose decision will likely determine how his colleagues vote.

“If the development is not integrated into our neighborhood in a way that benefits the community, I will be unable to support it,” he said in a written statement. “This means providing ample affordable housing, good jobs both during and after the construction process, and dramatically increasing public transportation options on and off of the peninsula. The Astoria Cove development done correctly has the opportunity to be a transformative moment for our neighborhood and we will ensure that it is only built to the highest standards.”

During the CPC hearing, commissioners were pleased the developers, which include Alma Realty, are taking up Mayor de Blasio’s recently developed incentive of building higher in exchange for 20 percent of floor space being dedicated to affordable units.

However, some commissioners are asking Weiss to consider using the school as a recreational center until the School Construction Authority and Department of Education approve it.

In the days leading up to the CPC hearing, Weiss and his colleagues have tried to address the issue with transportation by pledging to build a ferry terminal and possibly provide shuttle service to the nearest subway station, one mile away.

The CPC will issue its recommendations no later than Sept. 29, after the 60-day review period.

Welcome to the discussion.