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Innovation QNS Wins Key Approval After Reaching Deal To Add More Housing

A rendering of Innovation QNS, the $2B mixed-used development proposed in Astoria.

A breakthrough has been reached in the negotiations over a planned $2B development in Astoria, Queens, a debate that became a political lightning rod over the future of development in New York City.

Developers Silverstein Properties, BedRock Real Estate Partners and Kaufman Astoria Studios amended their proposal for Innovation QNS, agreeing to produce 1,436 affordable units, 500 of which would be for households earning 30% of the area median income and 157 units reserved for people experiencing homelessnessQNS reports.

The new plans, which boost the total housing in the project to more than 3,000 units, were revealed at a New York City Council zoning subcommittee meeting. The group voted 7-0 to approve the project and send it before the full city council. 

Local Council Member Julie Won, who has railed again the project, said she is “diligently finalizing negotiations for commitments from the developer and the mayoral administration” but that the agreement came with the developers’ commitment to a $2M anti-displacement and anti-tenant-harassment fund.

The developers initially said they would set 25% of the units in the project aside for affordable housing, but they failed to garner support from local politicians, with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards recommending against the project in August.

The developers increased the affordability component to 40%, and Richards backed the project, but Won said because the additional housing units were proposed to be subsidized, she said last month she wouldn't support the project until the developers committed to a 55% affordable housing component. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez voiced her support of Won's position late Wednesday, releasing a statement saying the city should help pay for more affordability at the project.

Mayor Eric Adams, who urged the approval of the development in October, released a statement hailing the subcommittee's approval of Innovation QNS and the Innovation Urban Village project in East New York, as well as the deal announced Wednesday for a new soccer stadium development in Willets Point, also in Queens, which has a large, all-affordable housing component.

“Today marks a new day for affordable housing in New York City,” Adams said. “On the heels of yesterday’s announcement of plans for 2,500 affordable homes in Willets Point, the City Council’s actions today move the ball forward on thousands more. In the last two days alone, we have taken major steps towards delivering nearly 8,200 new homes for New Yorkers, more than three-quarters of which will be affordable.”

Without the upzoning, the future of the site wasn't clear. Silverstein Properties Chairman Larry Silverstein said at Bisnow’s New York Economic forecast earlier this month that negotiations up to that point hadn't made any traction.

“When you sit and try to talk to [Won], the conversation doesn’t end up going anywhere productive,” he said at the event. “We have multiple millions of dollars invested in the effort. Will it result in new housing? Don’t know. If she continues to hold for her position, nothing is going to get built there. Nothing.”