November 26, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
New York, NY—That’s what Councilmember Costa Constantinides said outside City Hall in the accompanying video interview as he was joined by fellow councilmembers and organized labor to celebrate the green-lighting of the Astoria Cove project by the Council’s Land Use Committee a couple of weeks ago.
The councilmembers, including Land Use Committee chair, David Greenfield, called the agreement historic between the developer and the City because the project calls for reserving 27 percent of the approximately 1,700 units for affordable housing, while all being built and maintained by union labor.
But a reporter asked during the press conference what makes this project so historic when the ratio has always been 80 percent market-rate/20 percent affordable housing.
Councilman Greenfield said there are couple of items that indeed make the agreement historic.
“For the first time the first 25 percent [of affordable housing] that is required the developer will receive no subsidy; that’s a departure from what’s been done in the past. We now have 25 percent locked in with no subsidies, and [the developer] must build affordable, it’s not an option. Then when you add in good paying jobs and community benefits it really is historic compared to any other [previous] project. It really is the highest level of affordability with the highest concentration of labor with the most community benefit that makes it historic,” said Greenfield.
In the video interview, Councilmember Constantinides explained which income strata will be eligible to live in the Astoria Cove peninsula.
“Five percent [of the units] will be at 60 percent [average medium income], which means rents as low as $800 per month for a studio, then 15 percent set aside at 80 percent AMI, which means just about $1,200 per month for a one bedroom and then for a middle class family there’ll be one bedrooms for $1,800 per month, which doesn’t sound affordable but in Astoria where rents are going up and up, that’s a locked-in rate,” said Constantinides.
It wasn't easy to get the agreement, according to the Councilmembers. Councilmember Mark Weprin said that had the Council pushed for more affordable housing, addressing critics who had hoped there would be more than 27 percent, there was a good chance the developer could have walked away from the project.
We asked Constantinides what was it like getting a guarantee from the developer, Alma Realty, to preserve about 465 affordable units.
"Negotiations are always tough. But I think we came to a good compromise on this deal. I want to commend the developer for continuing the negotiations and sticking it out with us."