Council Down With the ‘Hunt’
by Jeffrey Harmatz
Nov 20, 2008 | 2218 views | 0 0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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The City Council’s approval of the Hunters Point development plan puts the area one step closer to breaking ground.

The Council approved a plan that includes the rezoning of two adjacent development sites, one owned publicly and the other privately, a zoning text amendment allowing for a Special Hunters Point District to accommodate the plan, and the city’s acquisition of Site A from the Port Authority and transfer of the site to a city-controlled non-profit entity that will develop the 37-acre site into more than 5,000 units of affordable housing, shops, a new school and a waterfront park.

After the Council’s approval, the mayor’s signature on the legislation is the only step needed to turn the proposal into law.

Hunters Point South has generally been embraced by the Western Queens community, which was disappointed by the lack of community input in Queens West. The plan for Hunters Point South was developed alongside the community, and is expected to create thousands of units of housing that will be affordable to middle-income New Yorkers, such as nurses, artists, and city employees.

“We have an affordable housing crisis in our city, and it reaches across all income bands,” said Councilman Eric Gioia, who has been a long-time supporter of the plan. “The middle class is being driven to the suburbs, and the working class is being driven into squalor. This project is a big step in the right direction as we both make room for the middle class and jump start further affordable housing in the neighborhood.”

The plan also tows to the revived interest in the East River waterfront. The proposed public waterfront park will not only include athletic fields, bike and walking paths, and an esplanade, but docks for boats, including a Water Taxi outpost, and a landing for small boats like kayaks and canoes.

“For my entire lifetime, the waterfront has been cut off from the people of Queens,” added Gioia. “Today, we are opening it up with parks, schools, and housing for all New Yorkers.

“With our vote today, we will be creating a vibrant, sustainable and well-designed middle-income community and waterfront park in Hunters Point South on abandoned manufacturing land just minutes from Midtown,” said City Council Land Use Committee Chair Melinda Katz.

Though the plan was overwhelmingly approved by the Council and supported by a majority of city and community agencies, a number of groups felt that the plan did not provide a satisfactory amount of low-income housing.

“From the start, the vision for this project failed the fairness standard since it directs public funds to create a project that ignores both the majority of residents and those with the greatest need,” said Hannah Weinstock of Queens Community House, one of the leaders of the movement to make low-income housing a part of the plan. “In the midst of a crushing economic crisis with even more of the borough’s families falling over the brink, despite modest gains, this plan is a real missed opportunity.”

Community Board 2’s approval of the Hunters Point South plan came with a recommendation that 1,000 of the developments units be set aside for New Yorkers earning less than 50 percent of the average median income, a recommendation that neither the Department of City Planning nor the City Council incorporated into the final plan.

CB2 Chairman Joseph Conley said that, while he was disappointed with the lack of low-income affordable housing, he still supported the plan.

“This project is about much more than just affordable housing,” he said.

(All Renderings Courtesy of NYCEDC)

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