June 8, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
The city’s proposed transfer of its air rights to a private developer in exchange for some affordable units within a two-tower project in Long Island City was rejected by Community Board 2 last night.
The plan to transfer thousands of square feet of air rights to American Lions, a joint venture by the Lions Group and Fetner Properties, was voted down by the board by 33 votes to one.
The proposal, currently undergoing a lengthy public review process before reaching City Hall, centers on adding affordable units to the city’s housing supply. The air rights in question come from the unbuildable space under the Queensboro Bridge approach ramps going across Jackson Avenue.
Under the deal, the developers would be able to build 27 and 49 story towers with a mix of rentals and condos at 27-01 and 26-31 Jackson Ave., respectively—roughly double and triple the size currently permitted there.
Of the roughly 360,000 square feet of transferred development rights, 40 percent of it would be used by the developers for affordable rentals, resulting in a total of 150 affordable units in a 481-apartment project.
In addition, the affordable units would be priced at 130 percent of the Area Median Income, requiring a family of three to have an income of $104,606 to qualify.
The board, like many in the public who spoke out against the project, panned the proposal, believing it to be an assault on a neighborhood overwrought with development, not affordable enough, and a free giveaway of public assets with no gain.
“We understand affordability according to the English language definition,” said Pat O’Brien, criticizing the list of qualifying incomes for the project defined by law. He said that the qualifying incomes are too high for Community Board 2 residents.
Sheila Lewandowski, another board member, worried that the project would spur more air rights transfers from other un-buildable lots around the city to private developers.
“I’m terrified of this project because it sets a terrible precedent,” she said.
The developers, along with Department of Housing Preservation and Development, the agency behind the project, insisted that the deal enables the creation of many affordable units in buildings that would otherwise not have them.
“They took something that was really nothing—land under a bridge—and created 150 workforce housing homes,” said Damon Pazzaglini, chief operating officer of Fetner Properties.
A number of members from local civic groups urged the board to vote no on the deal.
“It is unconscionable to increase the mass of these buildings threefold without a larger benefit to our community,” said Rebecca Barnes, vice president of the Court Square Civic Association.
Brent O’Leary, president of the Hunters Point Civic Association, said the neighborhood is “in crisis”, adding that Long Island City isn’t necessarily anti-development.
“If you come here and you put a burden in our neighborhood, you’re gonna have to help us with that burden,” he said.
In a statement, the HPD said the project is still in its early stages of the public review process. “Community engagement is a valued and critical component to the work we do at HPD…and we look forward to continuing our work with our partners in the community going forward,” a spokesperson said.
The Lions Group, in addition, said it “listened carefully” to the board’s concerns and intends to address them to the best of its ability.
The project’s next stop in the public review process is the Queens Borough President’s office, before eventually reaching the City Council and mayor.
Less social conscience ruins a neighborhood. Builders and developers do not live here, don’t gove a hoot what debris they leave behind them for clean up—no planning for schools, transportation, parking or parks, hospitals or other human supports. Less air circulation,more infrastructure stress—has anyone complemented the population growth with a bevy of asocial needs—fire houses, police stations, postal workers and their stations????
That’s the wreckage left behind by greed.
Time to get rid of reflexively NIMBY community boards. The city has a housing crisis, and these anti-everythings stand in the way of desperately needed new housing.
It’s not affordable for a lot of people. The housing crisis is bad because people are illegally putting their apartments up on AirBnB and everything being built is LUXURY for people to park their money in. Fix THAT problem. The way to change this is not continuing to build where only 10% or 20% of the building is affordable, because the current “affordable” limits are a joke.
Wow, an affordable housing project in LIC got shot down for not being affordable enough? Usually most of the hate for projects like this comes from the idea that poor people get to live in such a nice neighborhood. “Why does it have to be on the waterfront?” etc.
How is providing a relatively affordable place to live a detriment to a community? Are only rich people supposed to live in LIC? You can act like $105k is a high bar to set for a family of three, but in reality, people making that much currently have no chance of being able to afford living here.
There are a lot of families of 3 making a lot less than 104k than there are making that amount. It is a city for the rich now (LIC). This project should be SCRAPPED.
I’m not making that much, but if you’re not offering housing for people making that much they’ll get existing units and reno them.
This will cause secondary displacement as people who could afford a new apartment in LIC would just get one in Astoria instead, this will then push Astoria residents into even poorer neighborhoods.
The same thing is currently happening in Brooklyn neighborhoods, as the zoning in Williamsburg is pushing people who would like to live there but can’t afford it to the poorer surrounding communities.
It’s a shame people like MRLIC love luxury real estate developers so much they vote for them for president. Now they have even more power to make this a city for the rich, because they are rich.
Thanks for voting against your own interests MRLIC and making it worse for all residents except the rich elites like the one you voted for.
MRIRONY, Look to your local Idiot Dumb-O-Crats such as Cuomo-DumBlasio and Van Bramer and tax breaks for already rich developers. Trump is doing GOOD for America and does not like Sanctuary Cities for Illegals like NYC. Wake Up !!!!!!!!
Agreed, Trump gave huge tax breaks to greedy developers like himself. Thanks for helping the greedy developers by voting for him, but what’s that got to do with our mayor?
Is the developer a friend of Jimmy Van Bramer and/or the Mayor? Check their contributions to the Mayor or Jimmy’s War Chest. Who connected to Lions Group has contributed the there elections campaigns? Bet you will find the connection Watch this closely and see how Jimmy votes once it gets to the full council and the Mayor. So corrupt!!
Unfortunately, I agree with that. This will probably get passed anyway once it gets to the Mayor because we all know which side he’s on. A Tale of Two Cities indeed.
A lot of people hate towers but a condo in a LIC isn’t really any more expensive than a rowhome is the surrounding communities.
The reason housing is so expensive is that we restrict the supply of new housing so developers can charge whatever they want.