A long-simmering feud between one of the city’s most prominent real estate dynasties and the de Blasio administration has boiled over on the Queens waterfront.
Negotiations broke down recently over the stalled Halletts Point project in Astoria following the latest in a string of pointed and occasionally bizarre disputes between City Hall and the Durst Organization. The development firm, now in its third generation and run by Douglas Durst, said this week it plans to hold off on the remainder of the 2,002-unit rental complex rather than stay at the bargaining table.
“We are postponing the project until the next administration in the hope they will share the enthusiasm that the local community and we have for the development,” Durst spokesperson Jordan Barowitz said in an interview.
The point of contention is a $21.6 million city financing package promised in 2015 to offset infrastructure costs at the sprawling, seven-building project on the East River waterfront. Between the time the project was planned and now, changes to a state tax abatement baked into the project’s financing required an additional 5 percent of units to be enrolled in the city’s affordable housing program.
Barowitz said the developer and city officials came to an understanding years ago that the additional requirement would throw the project’s balance sheet into the red, and that an alternate way of awarding the financing was needed to get the money without having to provide the added affordable housing.
But when Durst proposed such a mechanism last year, the city declined to move forward with it.
“A project as large and complex as Halletts Point requires a partnership between the developer and the city,” Barowitz said. “Unfortunately, we have never been able to forge this partnership, and without it, the project is impossible to build.”
City Hall, however, said it was always understood the developer would have to comply with existing requirements under the tax break, in whatever form the program ended up. City officials still reviewed Durst’s proposed financing method last year, but determined the additional affordable housing requirement wouldn’t have as dire an effect on the project as the developer claimed, per the mayor’s office.
“We will not cut special deals that result in more profit for developers and less affordable housing for New Yorkers,” mayoral spokesperson Jane Meyer said in an email.