May 23, 2022 By Christian Murray
The first step in the public review process for the massive Innovation QNS project in Astoria will take place Wednesday with a public hearing.
Queens Community Board 1 is hosting the hearing, where the developers will present their plan that involves rezoning five city blocks. The public will then have an opportunity to weigh in on it.
The public hearing is primarily held as a means to gauge public sentiment, which influences the Community Board and elected officials when they decide whether to vote for or against it.
The application has been filed by a team of developers consisting of Silverstein Properties, Kaufman Astoria Studios and BedRock Real Estate Partners. The Dept of City Planning certified the application on April 25, which kicked off the public review process known as ULURP.
Community Board 1 is required to hold a public hearing and vote on the plan within 60 days of when the plan was certified.
The developers plan to create a mixed-use district between 37th Street and Northern Boulevard, bound by 35th and 36th Avenues, that would consist of more than a dozen buildings that would range in height from nine to 27 stories.
The plan calls for 2,845 apartments, of which 725 would be affordable. The developers say that hundreds of the affordable units would be priced below $1,000 per month.
The project would also include 250,000 square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of retail offerings, 100,000 square feet of community space, two acres of public open space, and 1,465 parking spaces.
The hearing will come about six weeks after the developers held a town hall meeting at the Museum of Moving Image, where dozens turned out to criticize the plan.
Many people in opposition to the proposal say that it would lead to the displacement of nearby residents and small business owners—arguing that it would likely lead to a hike in area rents.
Meanwhile the developers say that the land they are looking to rezone is underutilized—primarily consisting of warehouse space and parking lots. They argue that it would be adding to the supply of housing—including affordable housing—and that they would not be displacing anyone.
The application is off to a rocky start, with Council Member Julie Won announcing last month that the developers had failed to do enough public outreach.
The letter called for the developers to hold townhalls and workshops in multiple languages and to engage in greater outreach to increase awareness of the plan. She noted that many residents in the area are immigrants who are not fully conversant in English.
She said that the outreach was inadequate—particularly given the scale of the plan.
Community Board 1 is required to vote on the plan before June 24, within 60 days of certification. Queens Borough President Donovan Richards will then have 30 days in which to make a recommendation. Both recommendations are advisory.
The City Planning Commission will then have 60 days to vote on it. The CPC vote is typically binding, where its rejection—which is rare– would terminate an application.
The final step in the process is for the plan to go before the city council, which ultimately decides the fate of the application. Won, who has shown no enthusiasm for the project, will essentially determine its fate.