Affordable Housing

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The city unveiled a multi-faceted economic development “action plan” to prevent foreclosures, improve streetscapes, create affordable housing, and increase job-training opportunities in Jamaica on Wednesday.

The actions include creating a Jamaica-specific marketing and branding program, expanding free WiFi access via the LinkNYC program, and capital improvements to Rufus King Park and Brinkerhoff Mall Park in St. Albans. 

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Mayor de Blasio’s plan–if it’s far enough along to even call it a plan–to build a massive housing complex above the Sunnyside rail yards continues to face opposition from just about every corner. Yesterday the Times ran an article that used the rail yards to highlight the ongoing tension between the mayor and Governor Cuomo. According to the story de Blasio gave Cuomo little notice that he planned to mention the yards in his state of the city address. Hours later Cuomo’s spokesman issued a statement: Sunnyside Yards is “unavailable for any other use in the near term.” After that, transportation authority officials backed out of long-scheduled meetings with the city according to the story

Here in Queens the reaction from public officials has been swift and entirely negative. On Tuesday Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer told the Hunter’s Point Civic Association that in order to meet the 11,200 units of affordable housing that the mayor is seeking, developers might have to build 70,000 to 80,000 units according to the LIC Post. Van Bramer vowed to oppose the plan, pointing out that the area already has issues with green space and transportation.

“We can’t fit people on the 7 train today, we don’t have enough school seats for our children today, we don’t have enough green space in western Queens today [excluding Astoria Park and the waterfront in Hunters Point],” he said. “Adding 100,000 more people to our community is staggering,” he said.”The No. 7 train will not be able to house them all,” he added. “That is crazy,” he was quoted as saying in the Post.

State senator Michael Gianaris  also voiced his opposition to the idea at a Community Board Two meeting last week, pointing out similar existing problems with the area’s transportation infrastructure according to an article in the Times Ledger. The community board’s new chairman chimed in with his concerns as well.

While the development, should it ever go forward would be massive, it’s not clear how Van Bramer came up with his figures. The city currently requires developers seeking zoning changes for their buildings to set aside 20 percent of their units as affordable. If the city and developers follow that model the development will need to have 56,000 units to reach the goal of 11,200 affordable units (one expert quoted by the Post specualted that in exchange for the affordable units developers would be able to build as many market-rate units as they wanted). That is a vast development to be sure, one that would change the neighborhood for decades to come. However, it is also far short of 80,000 units.

What do you think about the development? Are there better uses for the rail yards or should they just be left as they are?

For Cuomo and de Blasio, the Tension Comes Easily [NY Times]
De Blasio’s Sunnyside Yards Plan Might Result in 70,000 Units Being Built on top of Tracks [LIC Post]
CB2 Keeps Watchful Eye on Sunnyside Rail Yards [Times Ledger]
Sunnyside Yards Coverage [Q’Stoner]

Photo: Mitch Waxman

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Some of the very lucky winners of the lottery for affordable units in the Hunter’s Point South development have been notified by the city’s department of Housing Preservation and Development according to the LIC Post. Those who have been notified are being brought in for interviews.

The city began accepting applications for the 924 affordable apartments in October. More than 92,000 people submitted applications for the units. The 37-story building at 1-50 50th Avenue will have 619 affordable units and 1-55 Borden Avenue, a 32 story tower, will have 306 affordable units. Studios for the lowest income tenants are $494 a month. The most expensive income-restricted units are three-bedroom apartments for $4,346 a month.

The agency expects to continue to interview those placed high on the list over the course of the next few months until all of the units are filled.

Winners of Hunter’s Point South Lottery are Starting to be Notified [LIC Post]
All Hunter’s Point South Coverage [Q’Stoner]

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Yesterday the NYC HPD celebrated the opening of a brand new affordable housing development in Richmond Hill. The development is comprised of two different sections: Richmond Place and the Richmond Hill Senior Living Residence. Richmond Place consists of 117 new affordable units for low-income families. And the Richmond Hill Senior Living Residence has 65 units specifically for older New Yorkers. According to the HPD, “Both were constructed on a Remediated Brownfield Location and are now energy-efficient affordable housing developments.”

The seven-story building has studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom units priced between $785 and $1,175 a month. The city broke ground on this development way back in 2011. Click through for more exterior and interior photos of the finished product. GMAP

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Boulevard Gardens, entered at the NE corner of 54th Street and 31st Avenue, was founded in 1935 as part of the United States’ New Deal initiative. T.H. Engelhardt designed Boulevard Gardens in 1933 in concert with renowned landscape architect C.N. Lowrie for the Cord Meyer Development Corporation, and based on a design Engelhardt developed for Forest Hills Gardens. The complex won an award for architectural merit from the Queens Chamber of Commerce in 1936. Ten six-story buildings comprising 960 apartments occupy approximately two square blocks between 30th and 31st Avenues, Hobart Street and 57th Street, with only about one-quarter of the property taken up by brick and mortar; the remaining property is open space and parkland. It was heralded as a “model village” when it first opened.

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The other day, I was wandering along the Boulevard of Death, aka Queens Boulevard.

As I walked along this decidedly unfriendly-to-pedestrians street, I pondered Mayor de Blasio’s recent announcement of his “Affordable Housing” initiatives and what that means for Queens. That’s when I noticed the Mitchell-Lama funded Big Six rising against the horizon, right around 60th Street in Woodside.

From Wikipedia:

The Mitchell-Lama Housing Program is a non-subsidy governmental housing guarantee in the state of New York. It was sponsored by New York State Senator MacNeil Mitchell and Assemblyman Alfred Lama. It was signed into law in 1955 as The Limited-Profit Housing Companies Act (officially contained in the Private Housing Finance law, article II titled Limited-Profit Housing Companies and referring to not-for-profit corp., whereas article IV titled Limited Dividend Housing Companies refers to non-Mitchell-Lama affordable housing organized as business corp., partnerships or trusts from 1927 on).

The program’s publicly stated purpose was the development and building of affordable housing, both rental and co-operatively owned, for middle-income residents. Under this program, local jurisdictions acquired property by eminent domain and provided it to developers to develop housing for low- and middle-income tenants. Developers received tax abatements as long as they remained in the program, and low-interest mortgages, subsidized by the federal, state, or New York City government. They were also guaranteed a 6% or, later, 7.5% return on investment each year. The program was based on the Morningside Gardens housing cooperative, a co-op in Manhattan’s Morningside Heights neighborhood that was subsidized with tax money.


LIC Daily Star image courtesy fultonhistory.com

Unveiled in February of 1959, and completed by 1963, the eponymous Big Six towers were built by Typographical Union No. 6 – known in its heyday as Big Six. The buildings were erected as a non profit co-op for members of the union in Woodside.

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There’s a new rental in town, this one at 46-09 11th Street between 46th Road and 46th Avenue. Curbed spotted seven active listings for studios, one- and two-bedrooms. Prices range from $1,823 for a studio to $3,715 for a two bed/two bath. Apartment interiors feature wood floors, big windows and “spacious, open layouts.” Building amenities include a courtyard, roof terrace, fitness center, private parking and bike storage.

This new six-story building holds 59 rental units in total, 20 percent of which will be priced affordably. (It does not look like the affordable units are available yet.) It was built by Ekstein Development and designed by GF55 Partners, who have a ton of projects in the works throughout Queens. It looks like the first open house at 46-09 11th Street is scheduled for tomorrow, from 12 to 4 pm. If you check it out, let us know what you think.

Studios Start At $1,823 In Hunters Point’s Newest Rental [Curbed]
All 46-09 11th Street coverage [Q’Stoner] GMAP

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Today Mayor de Blasio unveiled his administration’s comprehensive plan to build and preserve 200,000 units of affordable housing over the next decade. You can read the full 116-page report here [PDF]. Of those 200,000 units, 80,000 are slated be new while 120,000 will be preserved. So how will he do it? Basically the de Blasio administration will institute a policy of mandatory inclusionary zoning, requiring developers to include affordable housing in new developments in exchange for zoning allowances. And he is doing away with Bloomberg’s 80/20 initiative — 80 percent market rate housing with 20 percent affordable — in favor of a 50/30/20 model, designating 20 percent of units to low-income households, 30 percent to moderate income households and 50 percent as market-rate. The administration will also lift requirements to make it easier to convert old industrial buildings to residential, as well as add two new city programs to help spur development of vacant sites. And to address the increasing loss of rent-regulated apartments, the city plans to closely monitor landlords to make sure they are not illegally destabilizing apartments.

The mayor has also stated the desire to build tally and densely — the study cites the towering Hunters Point South project as a positive city investment in affordable housing. de Blasio didn’t mention any specific areas that will be targeted for increased affordable development, but Crain’s reports that the administration plans “to initiate a ‘dozen’ planning studies in the months ahead to start that process.” As the Mayor stated on Twitter earlier today, “Priority is going to be given to where the need is greatest — but this is a five-borough plan.”

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On Monday, the City Planning Commission gave the go ahead to the the five-building residential complex proposed for the Astoria waterfront. That means, as Crain’s reports, “the project with its proposed 1,698 residential units can now begin the roughly six-month public review process.” The plan moving ahead includes 295 units of affordable housing, a public school, a supermarket and a waterfront park accessible to the public. As reported earlier, the number of affordable units dropped from 340 to 295. The proposal also calls for 100,000 fewer square feet of residential space than in previous plans, meaning that the lower number of affordable units still makes up 20 percent of the total residential floor area.

The public review process is to grant the developers zoning changes to build up to 32 stories along the waterfront. In total, there will be three towers that could be as high as 32 stories near the water and two six-story buildings away from the water. The proposal will now go on to the Community Board (who will probably have something to say about that loss of affordable housing), Borough President Katz, and then back to the City Planning Commission and finally to the City Council.

5-Building Complex on Queens Waterfront Begins Review [Crain’s]
All Astoria Cove coverage [Q’Stoner]

Rendering by Studio V and Ken Smith Workshop

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Alma Realty filed plans with the city last month for its massive Astoria Cove development, and the actual number of affordable units planned is less than what was promised. The Daily News reports that Alma Realty promised a minimum of 340 units of affordable housing over five buildings at this mega development — in the application, that number is 295. And according to the News, “Housing advocates worry that the reduced number could float under the radar when a city review begins this month to rezone a handful of prime waterfront blocks from industrial to residential.”

The land use lawyer working for Alma Realty argues that development plans were formed under pro-development Mayor Bloomberg, and should not adhere to Mayor de Blasio’s promise to preserve affordable housing. Alma Realty also argues that the new number of affordable units still meets the 20 percent required to receive city incentives. As for the city, an official from the Planning Department tells the News that they will “do their best to ensure that a ‘significant portion’ of the housing in Astoria Cove is set aside as affordable.”

Planners Drop 45 Affordable Units from Astoria Cove Development [NY Daily News]
All Astoria Cove coverage [Q’Stoner]