Innovation QNS grilled at hearing as pols spar over megaproject

Council member, Queens BP clash over 2,800-unit development

From left: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards; BedRock's Jay Martin; City Council member Julie Won (Getty, New York City Council, BedRock Real Estate Partners)
From left: Queens Borough President Donovan Richards; BedRock's Jay Martin; City Council member Julie Won (Getty, New York City Council, BedRock Real Estate Partners)

Developers of a controversial Queens megaproject acknowledged Wednesday they haven’t secured funding for all of the affordable housing they’ve promised.

A principal at BedRock Real Estate Partners, one of three developers behind Innovation QNS, said at a City Council hearing they have yet to secure city funding that would allow them to keep their pledge of making 40 percent of the units affordable, according to Patch. Silverstein Properties and Kaufman Astoria Studios also have a stake in the proposed five-block, 2,800-apartment project.

That means only the 25 percent funded by the developers is set in stone, though discussions with the city are “very ongoing”, BedRock Principal Jay Martin said. Mayor Eric Adams supports the project, so it is likely that his administration would provide some subsidy if the City Council approves the rezoning that the project needs.

The development, which could bring 1,100 affordable units to Astoria, faces opposition from some community members and local Council Member Julie Won, who wants the project to be at least 55 percent affordable — with the vast majority of affordable units unsubsidized by government.

“Innovation QNS would be a majority-unaffordable luxury development in the middle of a working-class, immigrant neighborhood,” she said, according to Patch.

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The developers say the project would triple the number of affordable homes built in Astoria’s community district in the last eight years. They also emphasized the changes they have already made in response to community feedback, such as reducing the height of the towers near Northern Boulevard, including a sports facility instead of a school, and reducing the number of parking spaces from 950 to 500.

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They added they would continue to negotiate to find common ground and suggested the number of affordable units could rise. They also say that if their project fails, the property would most likely be used for industrial purposes, for which it is currently zoned.

Academic research has shown that market-rate apartments tend to reduce or stabilize nearby rents, but Won insists that the proposed market-rate units would displace people in existing housing.

The three-hour meeting grew tense when Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, a former City Council member who now supports the development after negotiating for more affordability, implied Won was being naive.

“I know you’re new here,” he said. “I’ll be damned if we’re going to settle on parking lots and tow pound lots in Queens County during a housing crisis.”

Most of the residents who spoke at the meeting opposed the development, while representatives from labor unions voiced support. Innovation QNS is projected to host 1,700 permanent jobs, according to BedRock.

Mayor Eric Adams has said he would work with Won to reach a deal.

“I’m hoping that, just as we’ve done with others, we can sit down and find a place that the councilwoman can understand that this is part of addressing the housing problem we have in the city,” he told reporters Monday.

The rezoning application, now in the later stages of the city’s public review process, will be approved or rejected by Nov. 21.