BY YVETTE BROWN
Mayor Bill de Blasio came to Astoria last week to break ground on the Hallets Point project and discuss affordable housing in that area.
De Blasio was joined by City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Commissioner Vicki Been, Community Board 1 board members, Queens officials, residents and The Durst Organization, which is the organization in charge of the project. This project is a joint venture between The Durst Organization and Lincoln Equities Group LLC, who guided the project through its seven-year approval process.
“This is an historic day for our family and for our new neighbors,” said Douglas Durst, Chairman of The Durst Organization. “In the 100-years of our company’s history we have never developed outside of Manhattan. We believe Hallets will be a model for community involvement, sustainability and large-scale mixed income housing development. Lincoln Equities and us have worked hand-in-hand with the local community, elected officials and the residents of the Astoria Houses to ensure this project will be a success not only for our family and our future residents, but also for the people who have lived and worked on the Halletts Peninsula for decades.”
A Look At Hallets Point
The new development will bring hundreds of new affordable apartments for low-income families along with a new school, new open space, renovated playgrounds and better transportation to residents in Astoria. This is all part of the housing New York plan, which has already financed more than 40,000 affordable apartments – enough for more than 100,000 New Yorkers.
The first building to break ground will open in 2018 and will include 405 units, at least 81 units will be for affordable to low-income families earning 40 to 50 percent of AMI – incomes ranging from $24,000 for an individual up to $38,000 for a family of three. The building will also house a full-sized supermarket as part of the City’s FRESH program.
The development will be a total of $1.5 billion and will include approximately 2,400 units, including at least 483 affordable apartments for low-income New Yorkers. The residents of nearby Astoria Houses will receive priority for 50 percent of all affordable housing units. The project will have state-of-the-art green features which means onsite power generators, a waste water, or Blackwater system and a recycling system, which will repurpose more than 130,000 gallons of water a day.
“Twenty-first century development must be affordable, contextual, and sustainable. The Hallets Point development helps bring our city closer toward these goals,” said Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria). “The 483 units will be available to working families who need it most. The on-site power generation and Blackwater reclamation system will make the community greener and more sustainable. The development will also help revitalize the Halletts Peninsula with waterfront amenities, a new supermarket in a neighborhood, which has been lacking one for decades, and a school that will serve this growing community.”
The structure will be 2.5 million square feet and will include seven residential buildings, two of which will be 100 percent affordable. The two affordable buildings are being developed in partnership with the Jonathan Rose Companies. The project will include 65,000 square feet of retail and community-use facilities, a site that will be reserved for the construction of the new K-8 public school.
Community improvements, according to the mayor’s office, include the following:
• The project will build over 100,000 square feet of public access space and extend the Queens East River and North Shore Greenway Esplanade. It will also reopen a section of Astoria Boulevard with improved bus services.
• The Durst Organization has partnered with local Jobs-Plus center provider “Urban Upbound” to facilitate access to construction job opportunities for local residents. Nearly 35 local residents have already been hired for jobs within The Durst Organization’s existing portfolio or by the contractor for site preparation work or at other job sites. Close to 100 local residents have received job training in preparation for the construction phase of the project.
• An elevated shoreline will prevent erosion and help safeguard the peninsula from rising sea levels. The development will be built in compliance with the new FEMA and HUD flood plain codes and will be a model of resiliency and sustainability. All critical infrastructure will be located well above any area that could be threatened by flooding.
• The Halletts Point development features a state of-the-art cogeneration plant that will enable the development to generate its own electricity, hot water, heating, and cooling on-site, independent of the local electric grid. The micro-grid created at this project will make Halletts the only “off the grid” residential campuses in New York City.
• A Blackwater reclamation system will recycle wastewater onsite which set a standard for water resource management. Building one will process up to 50,000 gallons of water each day and buildings two through five are expected to process 85,000 gallons each. This system will prevent millions of gallons of waste water from being dumped into the East River and the reclaimed water will be used to flush toilets and to irrigate the campus.
• A site has been reserved for the New York City School Construction Authority to build the first public school on Hallets Point.
• In 2017, the East River Ferry System will be expanded to the Hallets Point peninsula. The service will run year-round and provide rapid transit to locations throughout Queens, Manhattan, Brooklyn, and the Bronx.
“This was done right because the people of the community were a part of it. This was done right because it was seen as an opportunity to right some wrongs, to address some mistakes of history. Families deserve good food to eat,” said de Blasio. “They deserve a supermarket that will give them fresh produce. It’s finally happening. It’s finally happening because of this project. There’ll be a great new school for our children. There will be jobs for people who long have not had as much opportunity as they deserved – and yes, I am a little obsessed with affordable housing. Guilty as charged. I tend to say the words affordable housing 50 to 100 times each day. So, I’m going to say affordable housing now. And I am particularly moved by the fact that in the very first building there will be 100 affordable apartments for low-income families and hundreds more affordable apartments in the years to come.”
But was this really done right? No less than a week after the ground breaking of Hallets Point affordable housing, the developer said that most of the project is effectively on hold because of the expiration of the tax break known as 421-a, according to reports.
Jonathan Durst, the president of The Durst Organization, was quoted in a NY1 article saying, “We’re cleared with 421-a on the first phase, but if 421-a becomes unavailable, those remaining four or five phases won’t be built.”
The 421-a tax break creates a real estate tax break and property tax break in exchange for providing a significant amount of affordable housing.
Jordan Barowitz, vice president and director of external affairs for The Durst Organization, confirmed Durst’s statement saying that the first phase of the project is under an old 80/20 housing program, which the Housing Finance Agency offers as a tax exempt financing to multi-family rental developments in which at least 20 percent of the units are set aside for very low-income residents by using funds raised through the sale of bonds.
Barowitz explained that the project can not go through until this issue is fixed because there is currently no plan covering the next few phases.
Astoria Cove: Coming Soon
Another affordable housing project that was supposed to be under the 421-a tax break is Astoria Cove. While there have been rumors that the Astoria Cove project is no longer in the works, Alma Realty – the developers of the project – say that the project is still moving forward and the land will continue to be used for Astoria Cove. There is still no date on when the project will be completed.
Reach Yvette Brown at (718)357-7400 ext. 128, email@example.com or @eveywrites.