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Innovation QNS Wins Council Member Won’s Approval, Project Almost Certain to Move Forward

Councilmember Julie Won speaking before the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on Innovation QNS last month (Photo Credit: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit)

Nov. 21, 2022 By Christian Murray

It didn’t come easy.

After lengthy negotiations, the developers of the massive Innovation QNS project have been given the blessing of Councilmember Julie Won to go ahead with their massive 5-block, $2 billion project slated for Astoria.

Won said that she has struck an agreement with the developers who have pledged to build significantly more affordable housing than what was initially proposed.

The developers have agreed to build 1,436 of the approximately 3,200 proposed units as affordable—about 300 more than the 1,100 that had been promised earlier this month, and more than double the original plan of 711.

“From Day 1, I have stood with my community in demanding deeper affordability from this development–and because we held the line, the Innovation QNS project has doubled the number of affordable units than initially offered, from 711 to 1,436 affordable units,” Won said.

Won’s announcement comes on the same day that the council’s Land Use Committee unanimously approved the rezoning proposal (11-0), which will bring 12 buildings spread across 5 blocks in the vicinity of Steinway Street and 35th Avenue. The plan will now go before the full city council for a vote, and upon its almost certain approval, the rezoning will go into effect.

The revised plan presented to Community Board 1 on June 1 (Screenshot)

Several of the buildings in the proposed development will be approximately 25 stories high and will contain office space and community facilities. The project will also bring more than 2 acres of green space to the area, which is currently home to warehouses and parking lots.

The plan until last week made provision for 2,800 housing units but the number was increased to 3,190 to make way for the additional affordable housing units. The developers have reduced the amount of office space and parking spots to add the housing units.

A significant number of the affordable housing units will be for residents with very low incomes. Won said that 658 units will be set aside for people who earn up to 30 percent Area Median Income, or $36,030 for a family of three. Of the 658 units, 157 will be for the formerly homeless.

Won said that the developers have agreed to contribute $2 million toward a fund that would help area residents in danger of displacement. The funds would be used to cover the cost of legal representation for tenants who are harassed by landlords, as well as to help those who have to relocate from the immediate project area.

The agreement was reached after the developers—Silverstein Properties, BedRock and Kaufman Astoria Studios—came under heavy criticism from Won, who said that they didn’t do enough community outreach and didn’t offer enough “truly affordable housing.”

The developers initially proposed 711 affordable housing units—or 25 percent of the total units– the minimum required under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program. The MIH program is triggered whenever a residential rezoning is sought.

Won said that the agreement she struck has set a precedent, and that the MIH requirement set by the city is not enough.

“Mandatory Inclusionary Housing…is not only inequitable housing policy, but also inadequate to tackle our worsening affordable housing crisis,” Won said.

Won had called on the developers to set aside 55 percent of the units for affordable housing. The deal she struck equates to about 45 percent.

The councilwoman said that she could have got the 55 percent, but the units would not have been offered at the same level of affordability—such as 30 percent Area Median Income– that she believes residents need. The units, she said, would have still been affordable but would have been for those with much higher income levels.

Won said that she was also able to get the developers to build larger affordable apartments. She said that the number of family-sized affordable units is now much greater than what was proposed—with 554 two- or three-bedroom units, up from 284.

Concept rendering of Innovation QNS

The councilwoman won praise from some of her colleagues as well as elected leaders in the area.

“The newly revised project negotiated by Council Member Won and approved by our Land Use Committee is an unprecedented step to expand affordability,” said Council Speaker Adrienne Adams in a statement. “I applaud Councilmember Won for advancing affordable housing solutions and public benefits that will benefit her district and all New Yorkers.”

Won was praised by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for her negotiations.

“This historic level of affordability, substantial public subsidy and millions in funding for community and public housing infrastructure are welcomed investments…We thank all involved—from the Astoria is Not for Sale Coalition and Councilmember Won—to supportive elected officials.”

Won said that the community fared well given that the development is on private land.

“This is not public land where you might get 100 percent or 75 percent affordable housing,” Won said. “We got pretty close to 50-50 which is pretty good—although I tried to get more.”

Won said that she was grateful that she had the backing of the community during the negotiations. She said that she had a united front behind her—from western Queens elected leaders to community groups—that could not be ignored.

“If they didn’t show up in the numbers that they did, if they didn’t speak out, if they didn’t organize, this would have been like any other project that you see go through in our city. It would have been 25 percent affordable [housing] or maybe 30 percent. That’s the norm for private land. We did much better.”

Project site as presented to Community Board 1

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31 Comments

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Hipster progressives

Aoc, Won, Caban. A track record of great success in their civilian life. None.
No! stop! that is not okay!
That is their recipe for crime fighting. Lol! I give them credit for being able to say it with a straight face.
And what’s with all these little cops now.

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Anonymous

I guess this sets the stage for the ultimate development project – Sunnyside Yards! Here comes the decking. I wonder what type of slush fund amount will be for that project. Any comment from the DSA?

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Anonymous

REBNY has done what many thought was unthinkable. They have figured out how to work with the NYC DSA. And who would have thought that the solution would be to set up slush funds of cold hard $. Well, If you think about it, I guess it makes sense.

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We have no representatives

Julie Won caved. All the sell-out “representatives” betrayed us. Fake progressives Tiffany and Donovan and now Julie obey big real estate. The ugly project will eat Astoria Sunnyside, overload infrastructure, block the sky, and bring ten years of dust, noise, and permanent congestion. Cheap land in Queens is why LIC was wrecked, as Manhattan’s overdevelopment continues to metastasize.

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Anonymous

Julie Won didn’t even attend the protest against Barnett Avenue complex alongside her neighbors in the area!

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Louella

Is heat and hot water included in the affordable rental units? Still freezing here at Woodside Housing and looking to move.

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Anonymous

Yes from the middle class tax payers who do not get any benefits and no tax breaks like the wealthy and Julie Won did not negotiate units for the middle class income levels. They are for the poor and rich only. How could she not remember and require middle class income range units? Our backyard and we are boxed out through Julie Won’s stubborn negotiations (for everyone but lower middle class and middle class residents in the area who will watch the other two extremes move into the new development.)

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Lela

Until someone stands up and makes them change the ridiculous formula they use to define “affordable” this talk is all just a cruel joke on the people who live here. We may have been fooled 15 years ago, but we aren’t any more. We’ve been sold away to the highest bidder who doesn’t care what happens to us as long as we just go away so richer people can move in.

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Maria

Looking forward to the closing and clearance items at the electric and appliance store. I need a new stove.

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Hejin

There should be no compromising when it comes to affordable housing for the homeless and the working class. Very disappointed in this outcome.

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No small job.

What is the start and end date of this project?

Julie Won, THANK YOU for negotiating tough and not letting this necessary growth for the city get cancelled.

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Kate

Those of you complaining do not understand that there are thousands of applicants when affordable or market rate units are open to the public. The struggle is real!! And more needs to be done to increase city rent vouchers and force landlords to take them. This is a smal step in helping battle housing segregation.

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Anonymous

Julie Won has segregated the lower middle class and middle class tax paying voters in her District, by not negotiating income levels for everyone.

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Daniela

Nice to know that a good number of homeless and people and NYCHA qualifying residents will be living in luxury housing when this gets built. Thanks Julie Won.

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Hal

That’s what you think. They put it out for low income, then they disqualify you and rent it for big money. It’s a scam. How many time do you want to buy the same bridge?

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Anonymous

The DSA/left is now pro-development?

The DSA/left is now for displacement as long as they can squeeze $2 million into a slush fund?

Amazon should try and come back and try again, DSA will say sure just give us $100 million slush fund.

Kinda ironic that the socialists are now working hand in hand with REBNY.

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Robinette Obiden

how much did the developers pay her? politicians always get a cut in the deal. asking for a friend.

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Anonymous

Councilperson for All, Julie Won, where are any units for lower middle class and middle class of your voting District who pay their full taxes, without benefits? Forgotten again by you. Just pay your taxes and work harder for everyone else to live better. The units for for the poor and wealthy and once again can not qualify for the income units you fought for nor the fair market value of the rest of the units. And the Mayor wonders why they are losing so many people moving out of the City?

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Anonymous

Exactly. Who is going to pay the taxes when the lower middle class and middle class move away, which they are.

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Vera

They will just raise property taxes and ask for more federal aid to help the poor. Middle and upper class may be moving but rich folks are still owning and buying property to rent. Qns is much cheaper than Brooklyn and Manhattan.

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Martina

Still not the 55 percent she asked for!! The Affordable Units better be scattered with the more expensive luxury housing and not segregated!!! What a sell out!!!

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Bought and paid for.

What a shock!

As if there were any doubt the developers would get their way.

Somebody should cue a laugh track any time a public official utters the words “affordable housing.”

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