BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
Capping a summer-long debate over affordable housing at a proposed Astoria Cove development, Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) has posed a question: what should “affordable” mean, exactly?
In a letter sent to the Dept. of City Planning, Constantinides expressed his “deep concerns” regarding Alma Realty’s proposed residential development on the Astoria waterfront.
“The finalized agreement with the developer should provide real affordable housing, preserve Astoria’s small business character, include good jobs, and increased public transit,” Constantinides wrote, echoing many of the same concerns already voiced by Community Board 1 and Borough President Melinda Katz. CB1 and Katz each rejected the proposal with recommendations.
Regarding affordability, Constantinides focused not only on the number of affordable housing units at the development but also on the very definition of “affordable.”
“[The zoning text] permits apartments at 175 percent of Area Median Income to count as ‘affordable,’” Constantinides wrote. “This means that 1 bedrooms renting at $2,600 will be considered ‘affordable.’”
“That may be affordable on the Upper East Side, but it’s not affordable here in Astoria,” Constantinides said in a conversation with the Queens Tribune.
He went on to explain that developers are currently proposing 345 units at prices that are “reachable for middle class Astorians.” However, he fears that they might raise the prices of the affordable units – which would also require them to offer more of these units – a possibility that the zoning text allows.
“This is something that’s in the current zoning text that I want to see amended,” Constantinides said.
Howard Weiss, who represents Alma Realty, responded that developers are committed to affordable housing that is feasible for native residents.
“In the application we talk about the units being affordable to the low income band,” Weiss said. That part of the proposal “has not and it is not changing,” he added.
Constantinides’ vote on this project in the City Council will be crucial to its outcome. Weiss said that developers intend to consult further with him to ensure that he is comfortable with the project.
Constantinides said he too plans to remain in touch with developers.
“What makes Astoria great is all the diversity that we have,” he said. I want to ensure that we’re able to keep the hardworking people that make Astoria the great place it is in their own neighborhood.”
The City Planning Commission has until Sept. 29 to vote on the proposal, at which point it will move to the City Council for a vote in November, according to Constantinides.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, email@example.com or @JNStrawbridge.