Make Affordable Housing More Affordable
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Oct 30, 2008 | 2343 views | 0 0 comments | 56 56 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Councilman Eric Gioia, Councilman Tony Avella and members of advocacy group Queens for Affordable Housing demand a greater range of housing in Hunters Point South.
Councilman Eric Gioia, Councilman Tony Avella and members of advocacy group Queens for Affordable Housing demand a greater range of housing in Hunters Point South.
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The City Council held a hearing last Friday to determine the future of the development at Hunters Point South.

An off-shoot of the larger Queens West development, Hunters Point South has been designed in partnership with the community to create more than 30 acres of open parks, new streets, a school, retail opportunities, and more than 1,500 new residential units, many of which will be affordable to middle- and low-income families.

While the plan has generally been met with the support of the community, a growing number of activists have demanded that the number of units reserved for low-income residents be increased, a point that was emphasized not only during the hearings but at a demonstration on the steps of City Hall held shortly afterwards.

The Hunters Point South project is being spearheaded by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which, pending Council approval, will create a separate Hunters Point Development Corporation to manage the development of the project.

A portion of the site is privately owned, but the city has received a commitment from the owner to develop the site in conjunction with the public project.

After what many in the community consider to be the mismanagement of the larger Queens West project, which has seen the inconvenient construction of several luxury high-rises with delays of the promised public projects like a park and library, the EDC has gone out of their way to work with the community in the creation of Hunters Point South.

Few in the area object to the project’s creation, and the debate over the quantity and quality of the affordable housing has been the developments only real stumbling block. As it currently exists, the plan would designate more than 60 percent of the residential units for middle-income earning residents, a demographic that the city says is underserved by housing programs. However, affordable housing advocates say that a larger portion of the units should be set aside for low-income New Yorkers.

Borough President Helen Marshall, who previously approved the plan with several conditions that would ensure continued community input on the plan, testified in favor of the existing affordable housing plan.

“Most federal and state housing programs do not address middle-income housing needs,” she said.” There has been a loss of thousands of Mitchell Lama units and more and more rent-stabilized units are being lost to vacancy decontrol. The result is that right now there is a major shortage of moderate- to middle-income housing, causing families to leave the city and eroding that significant portion of our tax base.”

After others testified both in favor and against the project, with most testifying against, citing the lack of low-income affordable housing as the plan’s primary drawback, a rally was held on the steps of City Hall to further drive home the need for affordable housing.

The rally was led by Councilman Eric Gioia, whose district includes the Hutners Point South development site, and Queens for Affordable Housing. They called for the EDC to change its housing plan and make more than 1,000 units affordable to families earning between $25,000 and $60,000 annually.

“Providing affordable and middle-income housing needs to be a part of every new development, especially in Queens,” said Gioia. “A cop married to a school teacher ought to be able to live in New York City, and so should a maintenance worker or crossing guard. There needs to be an equal distribution of new affordable housing so all New Yorkers have fair and equal access to a home for their families.”

The plan is expected to be approved by City Council with provisions creating more low-income affordable housing within the development.

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