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Another Prominent NYC Politician Is Bucking Against A Major Development

Donovan Richards

The $2B Innovation QNS development, from Silverstein Properties, BedRock Real Estate Partners and Kaufman Astoria Studios, has hit a major snag on its road to approval.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards has come out against the developers' plans for the project because he says it has too few affordable apartments, The Real Deal reports. The project is planned to bring 2,100 market-rate apartments, 711 affordable units and 100K SF of community space to Astoria, but Richards said he wants it to feature half market-rate and half affordable residences.

Innovation QNS is also planned to include a new school and library, but Richards wants to push the developer to donate to schools and libraries already in the surrounding area, as well as existing scholarship programs. He also said developers should establish a small-business grant fund, improve infrastructure and transit in the area, relocate tenants and report progress to both him and local Council Member Julie Won, according to TRD.

A spokesperson for the developers of the project, which would include 12 buildings across 2 acres in Astoria that are home to parking lots and auto repair shops, told TRD they are looking at ways to improve affordability.

The affordable housing units right now are aimed at those earning 60% of area median income. Won recently wrote a letter to the developers saying they haven't done enough to work with the community. 

Speaking at a Bisnow event last month, Kaufman Astoria Studio Vice President Tracy Capune said she wants to see Western Queens return to an environment of community leaders, business leaders and politicians working together to cheer for the neighborhood.

“We got an awful lot done for about 12 years there,” she said. “Hopefully we can get everybody on the same page moving forward.”

The tension between developers and local government is flaring up across the city as residents, politicians and real estate players grapple with the housing crisis.

In May, the developers planning to build a 917-unit Harlem building on the corner of West 145th Street and Lenox Avenue — having revised their plans to include 458 affordable apartments after political pushback — withdrew their request for the required rezoning.

The project had been considered a bellwether for how the progressive New York City Council will view and approach development. The local member, Kristin Richardson Jordan, had said she couldn't support the project.

A compromise was recently reached, however, in Brooklyn. The developers of two mixed-use projects on Atlantic Avenue got the green light to move forward in April after they agreed to meet the local member’s request for more affordable housing.