Planning commission OKs Astoria Cove proposal

Alma Realty's controversial mixed-use development still must win City Council approval

From left: The City Planning Commission (credit: Rich Bockmann) and Astoria Cove (credit: STUDIO V Architecture
From left: The City Planning Commission (credit: Rich Bockmann) and Astoria Cove (credit: STUDIO V Architecture

The attorney for Queens-based developer Alma Realty said he was pleased with the outcome after the City Planning Commission voted earlier today to approve a 1,700-unit mixed use development on the Queens waterfront that is being watched closely as a big test of the mayor’s affordable housing plan.

“We’re pleased with the outcome,” attorney Howard Weiss said after the meeting earlier today. “We’re pleased to be part of heralding in a new era of affordable housing in New York City.”

The City Planning Commission voted earlier today to approve the application for Alma Realty’s Astoria Cove development with will 10 “ayes,” two abstentions and one partial approval.

“This project represents an important step toward the mandatory inclusionary housing program that the department is building,” CPC Chairman Carl Weisbrod said as he voted in favor of the application. “The Astoria Cove application will facilitate a well-conceived transformative development that is vastly superior to what is permitted as-of-right on the site.”

The Queens-based developer’s application will now move to the City Council, which has roughly two months to vote on the measure.

Alma’s project has been viewed as a litmus test of the de Blasio administration’s relationship with the real estate industry. The plan calls for 1,700 apartments (345 of which will be set aside as affordable housing), 54,000 square feet of retail space, a waterfront esplanade and a public school in what is currently a 9-acre manufacturing area.

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Alma is planning to move forward without any financial subsidies from the city, but will apply for the state’s 421a tax abatement.

There have been concerns with the pricing of those affordable units. Commission member Michelle de la Uz said the pricing proposals set forth in the application would put the affordable units above many market-rate apartments currently in Astoria, thus putting them out of reach of those in lower income brackets.

She said the application still requires “further refinement” from the City Council. Uz abstained from voting.

As the application stands now, Alma is proposing to make 20 percent of the units affordable, but the Council may be swayed to pressure the developer to increase that share.

The local Queens community board had voted to reject Alma’s application, asking, among other things, that the project include 35 percent affordable apartments. Labor groups have called to make all mandatory inclusionary housing projects 50/50.

Commission member Irwin Cantor voted to approve all aspects of the application except for the affordable housing aspect, saying the CPC had moved hastily with the assumption the City Council would later approve the site for the inclusionary housing bonus.