“The clock officially starts now,” Councilman Donovan Richards said before a packed house at the RISE Center, where many gathered for an information session on the plan for the future of the old Peninsula Hospital site.
The ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) for the redevelopment plan has officially begun and principals, Alex Arker and Dan Moritz, from the developer, Arker Companies, were on hand on the evening of Tuesday, May 7, to present the latest details of their plan. As a Councilman, Richards explained that he and City Council will have the final say on the plan, so it is important to gather input directly from the community now. “We want to make sure we give the community a lot of say on the things they’d like to see in a specific project and we want the developers to understand the needs of the community. I want to make sure that towards the end of this process, when it comes before City Council, that I feel comfortable with your input in the plan,” Richards said.
Arker first revealed their mixed-use development plan for the site in early 2018, after purchasing the property in 2016. The presentation of the latest plan showed that some changes have been made since the original plan was presented, but at Tuesday’s meeting, many pointed out that the plan still needs to be revised, including Councilman Richards. “I’m currently not in support of the plan that has been proposed. We have a long way to go with negotiations,” Richards said.
A major concern for a few community members is the density of the project, with the development of 2,200 units. Some expressed concern that this would bring in at least 6,000 new people to the neighborhood in a place that lacks certain resources, transportation and adequate infrastructure. Councilman Richards said that at least 50 percent of the units, and likely more, would be reserved, with first priority given to people that already live in the neighborhood. The developers also explained the reasoning behind such a high density, saying it was necessary to allow for the building to be affordable, and to support some of the community benefits that the project will bring, such as the supermarket. Richards added that it was likely that the number of units will eventually be scaled back to some degree.
Some also questioned what “affordable housing” means and urged that the development should accommodate a mix of incomes. “You say you’re building affordable housing, but the idea is to give people an opportunity for an economically diversified neighborhood. I don’t think the plan you’re putting forward does that,” Arverne resident Glenn DiResto said. “A majoriy is for those at 80% AMI or lower. It doesn’t balance out incomes. I understand the need for affordable housing, but only 13% is going to be for people with 80% AMI or higher, so if a wife makes $35,000 and a husband makes $35,000, they do not qualify. You very much need to look at a balance of income here.” Richards and the developers said they agree that a mix of incomes is necessary.