$2 Billion Development in Queens Moves Forward

John Hill
23. November 2022
Visualization: ODA New York, courtesy of Innovation QNS

The weeks leading up to yesterday's approval of a rezoning that will allow the $2 billion project to progress saw Julie Won, a progressive local council member, "opposing the plan because she said it did not call for enough affordable housing," per the New York Times, "especially for people at the lowest income levels." With the council's current rules in place, Won could have single-handedly vetoed rezoning and killed the development.

When it was unveiled in July 2020, the project consisted of approximately 2,700 apartments, with "some 700 permanently affordable and senior apartments," per the development team of Silverstein Properties, BedRock Real Estate Partners, and Kaufman Astoria Studios. Won wanted considerably more than the initial 25% allotment of affordable units, at one point asking for 55% affordability. The developers did not go along with that target, but they did increase the number of affordable units to 45%, or 1,436 of the now 3,190 units. So on Monday, the day before the NYC Council vote, and having secured the additional affordable housing from the developer, Won shifted from opposition to support.

Visualization: ODA New York, courtesy of Innovation QNS

The initial Innovation QNS proposal consisted of apartments, office space, retail, open space, and an arts and culture hub, the last reflecting the project's adjacency to, and involvement of, the historic Kaufman Astoria Studios. But with the last-minute negotiations and the increase of both market-rate and affordable units, the office component has been removed from the project. It remains to be seen how this will impact the massing and design of the dozen buildings by ODA New York as well as the network of open spaces between them.

While the numerous reports on the city council vote are celebrating the plan to create thousands of apartments at a time when the city has a severe housing shortage, it will be ten years from the start of construction — initially targeted for 2023 — before the whole project is done and all of the units can be occupied. Of course, given the size of the project, it will be built in phases, with the first one focusing on two of the three eastern blocks, currently home to parking lots, warehouses, auto repair shops, and a pool hall.

Visualization: ODA New York, courtesy of Innovation QNS

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