BY LYNN EDMONDS
Community Board 7 voted 37-2-1 against a plan to build affordable housing on Flushing’s Municipal Lot #3 at Monday’s board meeting.
The overwhelming vote against the plan was largely a protest against the fact that CB 7 would not be allocated as many units in the building as they should have gotten in accordance with NYC Housing Preservation and Development policy.
Chairman Eugene Kelty also said that he was frustrated with environmental impact statements coming back negative when he said he saw evidence that new developments were still impacting the school system, the sewer system, the transportation system and the police and fire department.
“They lie. They constantly lied to me,” Kelty said.
The proposal for Municipal Lot #3, located at 133-45 41st Ave., is construction of an 100 percent affordable building that would serve households with incomes ranging from 37 to 100 percent of the city’s Annual Median Income, or approximately $22,000 to $61,000 for a single individual. Of the 231 total units, 66 are to be designated for seniors.
The bulk of the housing is geared towards households making 47, 57, 80 or 100 percent of the AMI, with about a quarter of the units falling into each of these categories. The two most affordable tiers of housing, for those making 37 or 47 percent of the AMI, are all designated for seniors.
The proposal, put forward by Asian Americans for Equality, HANAC and Monadnock Development and Construction, also includes plans for 13,000 square feet of community facility space, a rooftop garden, a laundry facility and senior services provided by AAFE and HANAC. The ground floor would also house a mall with about a dozen small shops.
An added feature was a holding tank for sewage that would help combat the problem of Combined Sewer Overflows into Flushing Bay by holding sewage until heavy rains subsided and the sewer system could handle additional intake.
The plan was compliant with Mandatory Inclusionary Housing, which is expected to be applied to Flushing West. The key difference would be that under MIH the housing would be permanently affordably by law and under this plan the affordability could expire after 40 years, though the developers said that it was typically extended indefinitely due to their own policies and pay structures.
The developers came before the community board requesting approval for six land use actions. The two most-discussed were their request to build a parking garage with more than 150 spaces and their request to override a requirement for a loading dock for the businesses.
Board members raised concerns about the lack of a loading dock, which they would take away parking spaces and possibly back up traffic, and the fact that thought the development would include a parking lot, there would still be a net loss of spots available to non-residents.
But those sticking points didn’t seem to be deal breakers. Many board members did express enthusiasm about the building’s design, and most of all, its intention to create more affordable housing for Flushing residents, and seniors in particular.
Ultimately, it was the way that the affordable housing would be allocated that swayed many of the board members to vote no, at the behest of Kelty.
While HPD policy dictates that 50 percent of housing units in affordable housing developments should be set aside for the community board in which it is placed, that policy was being skirted in this project.
Instead of 50 percent of the units being designated for CB7, 25 percent would be designated for CB7, 12.5 percent for CB3 and 12.5 percent for CB 4, both of which cover nearby Corona.
Community Board members took major issue with this change, which they said had been negotiated between elected officials behind closed doors. A representative from AAFE said that the decision had been a bargaining chip in negotiations over the Willets Point development.
“Community Boards 3 and 4 have absolute nothing to do with this,” Kim O’Hanian said,
“We felt it was an insult to CB 7,” Vice Chair Chuck Apelian said, adding that CB7 would lose 58 units under this agreement.
Kelty asked board members to vote against the project, protesting both the “closed door” negotiation and the government’s assessment that the development would not have a significant impact on infrastructure.
“As the chair of this board, I’m asking for the unanimous vote to say no to this project,” Kelty said.
He added that he had no qualms with the developers or their proposal.
“They’re very, very good people, they listened to us, and I’m very happy with it. But unless someone listens to us for once, that project should not go through.”
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana