ASTORIA – The ambitious project Innovation QNS has ardent supporters but also fierce opponents, as it aspires to remodel a significant part of the Astoria district, with the construction of modern mixed-use building complexes, in places that are underused.
In particular, Innovation QNS, with a total budget of $2 billion, includes the construction of 12 new buildings, with 2,800 apartments, 711 of them being in the affordable housing program and the rest available based on local real estate market prices. The construction is intended for an area with unused plots, between 37th Street and Northern Boulevard between 35th and 36th Avenue.
As expected, during the first public hearing that took place on May 25 in Community Board 1 to which the area belongs, the development company presented the reciprocal benefits of the project for the wider district, at the same time some residents of the area expressed their disagreement with them, at least for the time being.
“These developers have proposed a project that provides the least possible provision of affordable apartments, which, in any case, will not be affordable for those who need them most. There is also the threat of skyrocketing rents and property taxes due to an influx of luxury apartments which will make the neighborhood unprofitable for people like me and my neighbors,” said Mason Van Gieson, reflecting the view that the Innovation QNS, in its proposed form, could change the economic status of the area to the detriment of its lower and middle-income residents.
A 20-year-old Astoria resident, Briand Denton, took the opposite view, arguing that increasing the number of apartments available in the local market would offer more options for prospective tenants, as opposed to the reality he now sees, which is great demand for fewer housing options.
“If you want to keep the character of this neighborhood, we will need more homes so that anyone who wants to come here can do so. It would be a good start to create a rental home market in which landlords compete for tenants, not the other way around.”
At the same time, a study was presented on the impact of the project on the daily life of the area, based on which, in the coming years and if the new buildings are rented, they will cause serious problems for the current infrastructure of the area.
In total, it is estimated that Innovation QNS will bring 8,114 new residents, including 128 preschool children, who may not be able to attend the programs of the public kindergartens in the area.
For his part, the representative of the construction consortium (Silverstein Properties, Kaufman Astoria Studios, and BedRock Real Estate Partners) reiterated the belief that possible approval of the project will be to the benefit of the region and the entire city.
“We continue to stress that New York – perhaps more than ever – needs this $2 billion private investment, which will build homes for various incomes and 5,400 new jobs, while providing hundreds of millions of dollars that will support public safety, education, and infrastructure,” he said.
Of course, the proposal of Community Board 1 – which has objections to the approval of the request for a change of the construction zone to make the project feasible – is not binding, as the attitude of the Queens Borough and the New York City Council will be decisive, with the final outcome of the case expected by the end of the year.
Two more public hearings on Innovation QNS are scheduled for Saturday, June 11, noon-2 PM, at Melrose Ballroom on 33rd Street in Astoria, and virtually on Tuesday, June 14, 6-8 PM.