Innovation QNS, the $2 billion megadevelopment in Astoria proposed by Silverstein Properties, BedRock Real Estate Partners and Kaufman Astoria Studios, was approved by the full City Council on Tuesday.
Last week, Council member Julie Won and the developers ended months of negotiations with a deal to include affordability far beyond the city’s legal minimums for apartments on rezoned land. City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams was said to have played a major role.
The 3,200-unit project will include 1,436 permanently affordable units, double the amount initially proposed by the developers. Some 865 of those apartments will be reserved for households earning 30 percent or less of the area median income, which works out to $36,000 for a family of three.
In addition to renting some apartments at below market rates, the developers will set aside 142 supportive housing units and 157 for recipients of the city’s anti-homelessness vouchers. The deal also creates a $2 million fund to provide tenants legal assistance and help relocate tenants and businesses in the project area.
The number of affordable units was increased without rendering the project impossible to finance in part by adding 500 apartments to the 2,700 originally proposed. It is also expected that some of the affordable units will be subsidized by the Adams administration.
“I have stood with my community in demanding deeper affordability from this development,” Won said in a statement. “Because we held the line, the Innovation QNS project has doubled the number of affordable units than initially offered.”
However, developers routinely add affordability to their opening proposals. Won publicly demanded 55 percent of units be affordable but, facing the prospect of being overridden by the Council, ultimately settled for 45 percent.
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards went to bat for the project after the developers bumped affordability levels to 40 percent, and Speaker Adams became a lead negotiator as the deal came together.
With approval out of the way, the developers now have to actually build the thing. And given the uncertainty surrounding the future of New York’s 421a tax break, which developers say is necessary to make affordable rental apartments pencil out, that is not necessarily a done deal.
The developers have previously described moving forward without the tax break as a “leap of faith” that something like it would be restored, but did not allude to that in a statement cheering the Council’s approval Tuesday.
“This shows that when the real estate community works with our elected leaders, neighborhood groups, unions, housing advocates, and community members, we can find ways to address the city’s toughest issues, including affordable housing, infrastructure, and jobs,” said Marty Burger, Silverstein’s CEO.