Negotiations over the fate of Astoria Cove, the first new city development to opt into Mayor Bill de Blasio’s affordable housing program, have attracted no shortage of advocates and critics hoping to influence the process.
Housing advocates are pushing for the developer to increase the number of cheaper affordable units. Local officials are concerned about transportation and density. Real estate executives are worried that the city’s sharpened focus on affordable housing will cut into profits.
But on Sunday, the back-and-forth over the Queens project found a new set of stakeholders from another rapidly gentrifying neighborhood: Crown Heights, Brooklyn. The developer of the 1,700-unit Astoria Cove, Alma Realty, owns about 700 units around Prospect Place and is seeking to take them out of rent regulation.
“Mayor de Blasio, don’t fail this test!” pleaded one sign at a rally outside one of the buildings on Prospect Place in Brooklyn on Sunday, when elected officials and tenant organizers urged the City Council not to approve the Astoria Cove project unless Alma Realty rolls back the rent increases in Crown Heights and addresses concerns about its plans in Queens.
The City Council is holding a hearing on whether to approve the project on Monday morning. Council members can push the developer to change its proposal before accepting or rejecting the project.
Councilwoman Laurie A. Cumbo, who represents Crown Heights, said she could not support the Astoria Cove project in part because of what she said was Alma’s history of underpaying black and Hispanic construction workers.
“They’re demonstrating irresponsible development,” she said, adding that she would tell Alma that in order to win her vote, “we need you to come back and clean up your act.”
Since the administration announced in September that all new real estate projects requesting a zoning change from the city would have to build affordable units in exchange, Astoria Cove, which overlooks the East River, has become something of a litmus test for how developers and the city will negotiate future projects.
Part of me wants to say that Alma's chickens are coming home to roost. But then there's the part of me that doesn't see the City Council voting down a megadevelopment project.