Residents of Astoria, it's time to start preparing for another megaproject. City Council voted today to approve developer Alma Realty's plans for a controversial 1,723-unit development on the Queens waterfront, known as Astoria Cove. The approval was expected, as the council's land use committee approved the plan earlier this month. After months of negotiations, it's been decided that the development will be built with all union labor, and 460 of the 1,723 units (about 27 percent) will be reserved as affordable housing for families with a range of incomes.
The Observer reports that the city agreed to commit "$5 million in tax payer money toward the construction of a ferry dock on the peninsula," as well as "finding sources for remaining $3 million needed to make the boat-boarding point a reality." The city will also spend $1 million to upgrade a library, and another $500,000 to improve a senior center in the nearby NYCHA houses. Alma agreed to upgrade a local park for an unspecified sum, and include a grocery store and new public school.
City Council members spoke optimistically about the project, but some experts are skeptical as to whether or not it will actually be built. Crain's speculates that Alma may actually flip the property:
Crain's has confirmed that a minority partner has already been seeking a buyer for its stake. While majority partner John Mavroudis says he intends to build the project, he lacks the track record on ambitious developments to put much confidence in his assurances. After all, one group won approval for Hallets Point and then sold it to deep-pocketed Durst.In addition, some less-than-flattering news has come out about the developerAlma's founder allegedly bribed a Greek bank in 1995 for $5.7 millionand many critics are pointing to these shady dealings as a reason why the city should not work with them. Seems like the ship has sailed on that one, but what do we know.
· City Council Approves Astoria Cove Project in Queens [NYO]
· Astoria Cove project a risky gamble [Crain's]
· Judge: Alma Realty founder allegedly bribed Greek bank reps in 1990s [NYDN]
· All Astoria Cove coverage [Curbed]