Nov. 2, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
The city council gave the developer of a proposed two-tower project in Woodside the go-ahead Wednesday after an agreement was reached requiring the buildings to be smaller and for the project to include an elementary school.
Madison Realty Capital, which required a zoning change in order to move forward with the project, initially planned for 17 and 14 story towers at 69-02 Queens Blvd. Instead, it will be building 15 and 12 story towers at the site, respectively.
The developer also agreed to build a 476-seat K to 5 school spanning more than 66,000 square feet, which will be included in the base of one of the towers.
The changes to the project, among others, were signed off by the council on Oct. 31, thus ending the six-month public review process for the development and clearing the project to be built.
“This is an exciting new chapter, not just for Madison Realty Capital, but for current and future residents of Queens and revitalizes an eyesore in the area,” said Ross Moskowitz, attorney to the developer, in a statement.
The developer’s revamped project does away with a prior plan that received intense push-back from area residents, Community Board 2, and even Council Member Robert Holden as it underwent its public review process to rezone the site.
“The original proposal was too large, too dense, and would have created an undue burden on nearby schools and parking,” said Holden, who has been negotiating with developers on the projects changes in recent months.
The new project, however, goes beyond drops in height and the inclusion of a school. Rather than a total of 561 apartments with 169 affordable units as originally designed, the towers will have a combined 431 units, with 129 designated as affordable.
While the number of units has dropped, the development will still set aside 30 percent of the apartments for affordable housing, as laid out in the initial plan.
Furthermore, the developer has agreed to up the number of two-bedroom apartments in the two towers. It is unclear, however, what the updated unit breakdown is, although the towers will feature a mix of studio to two-bedroom apartments.
The number of parking spaces in the project has also lowered, with 202 planned as opposed to 242. Of the 202 spaces, 151 will be reserved for the market rate units, with 19 spaces set aside for the affordable units. For the retail component of the site, 32 spaces will be available.
As for the school, it is set to be located on the corner of 70th Street and 47th Avenue, or the southeast portion of the development.
The changes essentially check off a list of concerns brought up during the review process for the project, which began in April.
“I’m glad the developer was willing to negotiate an agreement that makes more sense for the surrounding neighborhood,” Holden said.
At a May town hall on the proposed project, for instance, many balked at the sheer number of units in the development and said the influx of residents would overwhelm the area’s infrastructure, including public transit, traffic, parking, and sewage systems.
Residents were also troubled by the impact the development would have on the district’s school system, one of the most overcrowded in the city, given the families that could be moving into the towers.
Another concern was the distribution of unit sizes in the development, where several worried that families seeking to move into the towers would be forced to select either a studio or one-bedroom apartment, which made up more than 80 percent of units. Two-bedroom units would make up the rest of the apartments.
All these issues prompted Holden to immediately reject the project in its initial state, which eventually sparked negotiations with Madison Realty Capital and other city agencies, like the School Construction Authority.
“By working collectively with Councilman Holden, City Planning, City Council and the community to determine the right mix of uses for the site, we have achieved a milestone for affordable housing as well as provided a school to the community,” said Josh Zegen, Co-Founder and Managing Principal of MRC.
The development spans 500,000 square feet, and is between 69th and 70th Streets on the boulevard. The project, which will also feature more than 5,000 square feet of retail space, is one of the largest residential development to be built in central Queens in decades.
The developer declined to comment on on the project’s timeline.