BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), who represents the district in which 2030 Astoria Developers hope to construct a 1,700-unit residential development at Astoria Cove, said he does not support the proposal as it currently stands.
Both Community Board 1 and Borough President Melinda Katz recommended against Astoria Cove earlier this summer, while the City Planning Commission approved the proposal in a near-unanimous vote in late September. Mayor Bill de Blasio has also voiced his support.
Astoria Cove now faces the City Council for a final decision.
The Queens Tribune sat down with Constantinides last week to discuss his thoughts on the project ahead of the Council’s vote. Like CB1 and Katz, the Councilman said his primary concern is affordability.
“Our community needs and deserves more than 20 percent,” Constantinides said, referring to the portion of units 2030 Astoria Developers has proposed to set aside as affordable.
When asked what percentage of affordable housing he would be comfortable with, Constantinides resisted pinpointing a number.
“I’ll know it when I see it,” he said. “I think it’s part of the larger context to what we’re talking about, but I haven’t seen that from the developer yet.”
Constantinides said he has been hearing from his colleagues in the City Council that they are supportive of his push for additional affordable housing.
He also noted that he is particularly wary of the way affordability might be defined at the development.
By his definition, rents geared for tenants making 80 percent Area Median Income – roughly $67,000 for a family of four, according to the Dept. of Housing Preservation and Development – would be appropriate for Astoria. However, Constantinides said he worries that developers might provide units at 125 or 165 percent AMI – which would also require them to offer more of these units – as the zoning text allows.
“While the developer has said that they won’t take advantage of that particular loophole in the zoning text, I think it’s important to close that loophole,” Constantinides continued.
Regarding his discussions with developers, Constantinides said he has been pushing for a higher number of affordable units and touching on subsidies or tax credits that might make that possible.
“We haven’t gotten to a place where I can feel comfortable saying yes,” he added.
Tom Butler of Butler Associates, who represents the developers, said, “the Astoria Cove project has always involved 20 percent housing in the low income band and doing so without public subsidy.”
Butler declined to comment on ongoing discussions.
Another major priority of Constantinides’ ahead of the City Council vote is addressing transit issues.
Adding 1,700 new apartments to the neighborhood would substantially overburden the already-crowded train lines and the developers’ pledged shuttle bus service would not do enough to solve the problem, he said. For the Councilman, ferry service represents one possible solution.
Constantinides said he will soon be meeting with City agencies to talk about the ferry and added that de Blasio has been involved in discussions but has not issued his support.
The Mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment on extending ferry service as of press time.
Constantinides said residents can expect a City Council vote towards the end of November. A public hearing on Astoria Cove will be held in Council Chambers at City Hall on Oct. 20 at 9:30 a.m.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, email@example.com or @JNStrawbridge.