Here’s the extended version of my story from this morning’s paper:
With a key vote set for Monday on the massive Astoria Cove housing development in Queens, advocates are demanding the de Blasio administration force the developer to make half of the apartments there affordable.
The 1700-apartment project faces a vote in the City Planning Commission Monday, and the Real Affordability for All campaign, a large coalition of liberal groups, is ramping up the pressure on what they consider a key test of Mayor de Blasio’s vow to overhaul the approach to affordable housing.
The advocacy groups insist the plan as it currently stands would be “Bloombergian,” a reference to de Blasio’s predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose development track record the new mayor has criticized.
“Our progressive Mayor should proudly prioritize the needs of tenants and families over developers,” said Jared Benjamin, a coalition leader and executive director of the Met Council on Housing. “At a time when most New Yorkers find the city increasingly unaffordable, the Mayor should not let developers get away with more Bloombergian plans. The de Blasio administration should be a tough negotiator for tenants and families, and tell developers that 50 percent mixed-income affordability is the new progressive standard.”
So far, developer Alma Realty has promised 20% affordable housing. The number is likely to change in negotiations before the project gets final approval later this fall, but it’s unclear by how much.
“We don’t want Astoria to turn into the next Bushwick or Williamsburg, and become completely unaffordable,” said Guillermo Serna, a neighborhood resident and board member at Make the Road New York.
The developer has said that building 50% affordable housing is economically unrealistic.
A de Blasio spokesman declined to comment ahead of Monday’s vote, but referred to comments by Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen last week where she said that while de Blasio’s “mandatory inclusionary housing” policy would set a minimum requirement for affordable housing, higher levels of affordability could be achieved through tax subsidies or financing programs.
“If you could get 15 or 20 percent of the units in your building through mandatory inclusionary, you could still access additional programs to get to 30 percent, 40 percent, even 50 percent,” she said. “But just calling for a plain old 50-50 and you must do it, I think is counterproductive.”
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