Macedonia Plaza, which celebrated its grand opening
last week, offered 143 affordable apartments to
BY DOMENICK RAFTER
Editor in Chief
It might have been state Sen. Toby Stavisky (D-Flushing) who brought the fanfare of the ceremonial grand opening of Macedonia Plaza in Downtown Flushing last Friday back to earth when she got up to speak.
Standing at the podium, following several of her colleagues and the Rev. Richard McEachern, pastor of Flushing’s historic Macedonia A.M.E. Church, which abuts the new affordable apartment building at 37-08 Union St., and worked with the city on its construction, Stavisky made a note of the response to 100 percent affordable building had – about 30,000 applications.
“143 down,” she said referring to the number of units in the building – all leased already. “29,857 to go.”
In the mix with gun violence, crowded schools and unreliable public transportation, affordable housing is one of the top concerns for New Yorkers. The issue rises above all the others, as it is one that seems to not only affect one or few portions of the city. The cost of living in New York is on everyone’s lips, everyone who is worried that the next lay off or unpaid leave due to illness will leave them on the street, or in one of the many homeless shelters that the city is quickly racing to open to meet demand.
So the fact that Macedonia Plaza was only a small dent in a citywide epidemic was not lost on those celebrating its opening Friday.
“We get more than 100,000 applications each year,” Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been said at last Friday’s grand opening. “It is a crisis.”
Indeed, in recent years, the ratio of applications to units has been staggering. More than 40,000 applicants applied for 100 units of affordable housing developed by Bluestone in Jamaica. In Hunters Point, 92,000 applied for 925 apartments.
To the untrained and uniformed eye, Macedonia Plaza looks like just another building scraping the skies over Downtown Flushing. The 14-story $50 million building developed by BRP Companies sits on the northeast corner of Muni-Lot 1, which is under development as the new Flushing Commons
The 143 units are broken up into studios, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments. There’s a community room and on-site laundry, an outdoor sun deck and perhaps most notably, a number of green building items, including low-flow figures and toilets, energy-efficient lighting, and, according to BRP, Flushing’s first co-generation system.
That technology will use natural gas to generate electricity for the commercial and common-area spaces. The “waste” heat from this system will be used to aid the heating of the domestic hot water supply. These features will offset operating costs and result in a more affordable and sustainable building structure for the building owner and residents.
Later this year, Tree of Life NY grocery store will occupy the new retail space in Macedonia Plaza, offering the neighborhood a wide selection of fresh produce and goods, which will benefit current and future residents of the area.
There are 27 studio apartments, 58 one-bedroom units, 55 two-bedroom units and two three-bedroom apartments.
Twenty-nine of the units are affordable for individuals earning $19,063 to $24,080, or $24,515 to $30,960 for households of three. The remaining units are affordable for individuals earning from $29,383 to $36,120 and from $37,783 to $46,440 for three-person households.
One unit is specifically reserved for the superintendent.
The building was constructed without any requirements for parking, a move that was controversial when the development was first announced a decade ago.
But developers stressed that they had expected most of its residents to not have cars and rely on public transportation.
Aymee Armenteros, a Cuban immigrant, who worked for a travel agency in Manhattan, is one of them.
Though Friday was the official grand opening, the building is fully leased and residents have already moved in. The lottery was closed in October 2013, more than four months before the building was actually finished and residents began moving in Dec. 1 – Armenteros, who formerly lived in Washington Heights, Manhattan among them.
“It’s great,” she said. “It’s close to the subway. There’s a lot to do around here. I’m happy with it.
Armenteros said she had been looking for a place in Queens or Brooklyn when she heard of the opportunity at Macedonia Plaza and jumped on the chance to apply.
So did Rahimi Habib, who had lived on the other side of Northern Boulevard before moving his family into one of the larger units in the building.
“I love it because it’s close to my mosque, it’s very safe,” he said. “And my family loves it too.”
A Model For Elsewhere
The de Blasio administration has hit some snags with its affordable housing plans. Several Community Boards in Queens, including Flushing’s Community Board 7, have come out against some of his proposals, including easing regulations on developers to create parking and legalizing basement apartments – the latter of which has become a heavy point of contention in South Queens, where basement apartments are rampant.
But partnerships between community organizations, such as churches, and the city, like the one that created Macedonia Plaza, are an idea City Hall seems to have continued interest in.
Among those speaking at Friday’s ceremony were the Rev. Floyd Flake, former congressman and pastor of the Greater Allen A.M.E. Church in Jamaica, and Deputy Borough President Melva Miller, herself a resident of Southeast Queens. Both had a message to the developers and HPD – replicate this elsewhere, notably in Jamaica.
“We want to see some of this in Jamaica soon,” Miller said directly to A.M.E. church leaders from that part of the borough who came to Flushing to support Macedonia. “That should be our next stop.”
As far as building housing:
“It is critical that we have housing like Macedonia Plaza that contributes to the vitality of the community while also safeguarding its affordability as the neighborhood experiences new opportunities for growth. Macedonia Plaza is a great example of how we can work across agencies and with our faith-based partners to leverage resources like an underused site and adjacent air rights, to create more than 140 new affordable homes for hardworking New York families.”
Reach Editor-In-Chief Domenick Rafter at (718) 357-7400 x122 , email@example.com or @NRafter.