Sept. 10, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
A controversial plan to transfer city air rights to a private developer with the goal of bringing some affordable units to a Long Island City development has passed the City Planning Commission and is now in the hands of the City Council.
The proposed project, in the last steps of its public review process, passed unopposed at an Aug. 22 City Planning Commission meeting after it was rejected by both Community Board 2 and the Queens Borough President earlier this summer.
The project involves the construction of two towers–a 27-story building at 27-01 Jackson Ave. and a 49-story structure at 26-32 Jackson Ave. Both buildings would be built with thousands of additional square feet of city-owned development rights.
The result is a development about three times larger than what the lead developers, the Lions Group, would have been permitted to build under current zoning. Through the transfer of the air rights, the developer would be able to build a 481-unit development with just over 150 affordable rentals.
The plan’s controversy stems from the trade-off the city is making in a bid to add affordable units to the city’s housing supply. Of the roughly 360,000 square feet of transferred development rights, less than half would be used by the developers for affordable rentals. The rest would be factored into commercial space and condominiums in each building.
In addition, the majority of 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, for example.
While the CPC green-lighted the plan, some commissioners raised questions that echoed concerns shared by Community Board 2 members and residents.
“I do agree that there seems to be an imbalance with the benefit gained and what we’re giving back to the public in reference to the transfer of these air rights,” said commissioner Orlando Marin at the July 23 pre-hearing for the project, later adding, “There’s something out of line here when it relates to what we’re trying to do.”
Anna Hayes Levin, another commissioner, wanted a better understanding of how the air rights transfer and affordable unit count was determined.
“It does seem out of wack, as the community board has pointed out,” she said.
The developers, the Lions Group and Fetner Properties, along with the city’s department of Housing Preservation and Development, said to the commission in another meeting that the plan is a way to create affordable units with otherwise unusable development rights. The air rights for this project come from the Queensboro Bridge ramps adjacent to the lots.
The middle income affordability option, the city said, was selected based on how high the rents in Long Island City already are.
“There is a need for those units at even those high income levels,” said Perris Straughter, an HPD planner, adding, “We really do believe the city is getting the best deal.”
In addition, Straughter said the city will be “sharing” the upside on the condo portion of the development. The city will be partly sharing in the revenue by receiving cash payments and allocating them into a fund for affordable housing within Community Board 2. It is unclear, however, how much the city would receive from condo sales, although Straughter said the payments are triggered based on what the condos sell at.
At the Aug. 22 vote, one commissioner who voted yes still noted that the affordability layout wasn’t enough.
“I do believe this is an opportunity to achieve deeper affordability,” said commissioner Michelle R. de la Uz. She recommended that the City Council require that in their upcoming vote.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer has yet to say whether he opposes or supports the plan, but did note that he is studying the proposal and will be taking input from the Long Island City community before coming to a decision.
“I have many concerns about the project that would need to be fixed,” he said in a statement.
The City Council has 50 days to review and vote on the proposal after receiving the related CPC report.
Near Mass Transit, I approve this building.
The FAKE MRLIC wrote the comment on Dog Poop from a pedigree animal as reference to my wife stepping in dog poop in Court Sq.Park. What a genius he.she is.
JVB is waiting for the Lion’s Group/Fetner Properties check to clear before he makes his decision. The Chase bank teller who processes the check deposits made payable to his campaign/War Chest at the Qns Blvd 48th Street branch would know. Corrupt board appointed by Jimmy at CB2.
What’s wrong with condo developers influencing the government?
Are you saying Trump giving millions of dollars in tax breaks to the ultra wealthy with the help of his criminal cabinet is wrong somehow?
Manafort hasn’t even had his second trial yet, let’s wait and see ALL the federal crimes he’s convicted of before we pass judgement.
I wonder whose hands were greased by Lions Group? JVB are your hands slippery? We already know that DiBlasio has taken money from them.
You see how JVB won’t say which way he will vote, once again lack of character. Another scam transferring the city air rights to a developer in exchange for affordable housing units in a high rise which will have apartments offered through a lottery which will be unaffordable to majority of the working class people in CB2. I’m for having air rights transferred if 100 apartments units are made available to drug addicted, mentally ill, out of prison parolees new neighbors in area homeless hotels so they can have a decent place to live.
I approve of this project. More affordable housing is always good.
The FAKE MRLIC wrote the September 10, 2018 comment on greedy luxury condo developers the president and Putin. My take on this is : How an the City Planning Commission approve this. LIC is overbuilt already. These are not really “AFFORDABLE ” units anyway. Where will they get on the already crowded trains and buses. The Court Sq. park by the Courthouse is already overrun by dogs. My wife stepped in DOG POOP the other day there. Community Board #2 and the Queens borough President already rejected it. Come on JVB stop this MADNESS.
Mr. JVB is all for this his pockets are lined very well.
Wonder if he’ll vote. He didn’t have the guts to even vote regarding the mayor’s decision to limit Uber/Lyft licenses. How does he get home from the airport?
Same old tired theme.
Yes, but it was dog poop from a pedigree animal, not some scrofulous welfare dog.
Another ruling waived/allowed to say “affordable housing” is going to come out of this deal at 130 percent of the Area Median Income – so for those with even more money to move in. I don’t understand how you can see this is being created for people who needed housing… nothing is being credited for those in homeless shelters. how are we going to reduce the homeless population if the city continues to build for the well off. Let the middle class pay more taxes to house these people… stop the right to shelter laws if development is going to continue this way!
Housing = Good
another 49 story building, just what is needed over there..jvb, please vote no and bring some sanity to jackson ave!! build a park under the bridge and you don’t have to sell/transfer any air rights!!
Great news, I’m proud to support greedy luxury condo developers like the president.
So what if Paul Manafort received a $10 million loan from Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to President Vladimir V. Putin in 2006. Trump hid his tax returns from the entire nation because he has nothing to hide.
Already. This is a local community outlet and you using it to bash trump at every turn is really getting tiresome. We get it, you’re not a fan.