Mayor de Blasio's been attempting to make good on his ambitious plan to add more affordable housing in the city. But one Queens Council Member says his efforts are still out of reach for middle and low-income New Yorkers: he slammed a new development in his borough that was recently approved by the city, calling its potential $2,700 "affordable" one-bedrooms "deeply concerning."
Last week, the City Planning Commission gave the greenlight to Astoria Cove, a 1,723 apartment mixed-use development planned for the Queens waterfront. That development is set to include 345 "affordable" units, and would be the first to comply with the de Blasio administration's new proposal that requires developers to include affordable units in new housing developments. It's considered to be the Mayor's "first test" on affordable housing, and City Hall spokesperson Wiley Norvell told us in a statement, "This is a game-changing moment for the city. For the first time, affordable housing is going to be guaranteed and legally binding. And it’ll be delivered, not to satisfy some tax credit or financial windfall, but just for the right to build on the land."
But as City Council Member Costa Costantinides, who represents Queens's 22nd District, noted yesterday, even those "discounted" units could be out of reach for low-income residents. "It’s something that’s deeply concerning to me,” he told The Post, noting that one-bedroom apartments in affordable units could run as high as $2,700. “It’s out of reach for a large part of my constituency when we have a median income of $56,000. We’re going to make sure that when they’re building affordable, they’re actually affordable to residents of our community.”
Though the developer, Alma Realty, has discounted about 20 percent of the units, advocates have argued in favor of making 50 percent of the units affordable. "Every new development like Astoria Cove that benefits from significant up-zoning and tax abatements should provide at least 50 percent real affordability so that local residents can afford to live in the apartments," the group Real Affordability for All said in a press blast this morning. "This responsible and fair approach would give city taxpayers a much better return on their investment while still enabling developers to reap sizeable profits."
Even more concerning for affordable housing advocates, only half the 345 lower-priced units will definitely be aimed at low-income residents.
According to the city, the mandatory inclusionary zoning requires a developer to make 20 percent of its units affordable; if only 20 percent of the units are provided below market-rate, they must all be aimed at low-income families of four earning less than $67,000 per year. If a developer chooses to make more than 20 percent of its units affordable, a percentage of those are permitted to be priced towards families of four earning a moderate or middle income, hence the rent tags Constantinides finds objectionable.
Apartments at Astoria Cove aimed at low-income families of four earning less than $67,000 per year would run about $1,600 a month.
City Council has a hearing on the development later this month.