“Heartbreaking:” Astoria Sports Complex sells to self-storage developer

Plans to expand complex had neighborhood support but not regulatory approval

“Heartbreaking:” Astoria Sports Complex sells to self-storage developer
34-38 38th Street, Steve Poliseno, Bill de Blasio (Google Maps, Facebook, Getty)

Local residents could have enjoyed a new ice skating rink and soccer field above the popular batting cages at the Astoria Sports Complex in Queens. Instead, the 53,500-square foot building will be replaced by a self-storage facility.

Storage Deluxe bought the building at 34-38 38th Street on Aug. 17 for $20 million, property records show. The company plans to add seven stories atop the structure, opening 125,000 square feet of storage by early 2023, a representative said. New York added 15.7 million square feet of self-storage space in the past decade, alongside 140,000 new apartments, according to a report by RentCafé.

“It’s a heartbreaking situation,” said attorney Mitch Ross, who helped the complex petition the city’s Board of Standards to exempt it from a rear-yard zoning requirement that ultimately prevented an expansion. Setbacks required by zoning rules effectively prevented full-floor additions to the complex, while storage units can accommodate them more easily.

A truss system to build two new floors for the rink and soccer field would have been “financially unfeasible” without new external walls, he said.

The sale ends years of battles between the owner and officials in several city administrations. It came even though plans to build two additional full stories directly on top of the current building had ample community support, owner Steve Poliseno said in 2020. Backers included the Queens borough president’s office, the Queens Chamber of Commerce and Kaufman Astoria Studios.

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Poliseno twice secured support from the local community board as well, but approval from the BSA, which can exempt properties from local zoning regulations, proved elusive. The board gave tacit approval to the expansion under Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s tenure, according to Ross, who said he wasn’t directly involved with the case at the time. Then, a family dispute over ownership of the property led to litigation, derailing the progress.

By the time Poliseno won his court case, the BSA under Mayor Bill de Blasio declined to grant an economic hardship exemption to the building. De Blasio was photographed in December 2019 receiving a letter from Poliseno, who had pleaded his case directly to the mayor.

“I am beyond frustration and exasperation,” Poliseno told QNS in March 2020. “I’m 72 years years old and it’s been a 43-year goal of mine to expand this place to give the people of Astoria a wonderful place to bring their families.”

The case made by the Astoria Sports Complex to the BSA has been withdrawn, said Ross. The BSA did not reply to a request for comment.