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Op-Ed by Councilmember Julie Won: Innovation QNS Can Afford to do Better

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. 10, 2022 Op-Ed By Councilmember Julie Won

I don’t need a crystal ball to see the future; my community has already witnessed firsthand the effects of gentrification, displacement, and luxury development.

In Long Island City, we’ve seen the development of more than 25,000 luxury, market-rate units, leading to a rent increase of more than 43 percent over the last decade, far outpacing the city as a whole.

Woodside, which has not seen the same luxury development, has had just a 7 percent rent increase within the same period, less than the city average.

Building more luxury than affordable apartments is precisely how developers and policy makers created our housing crisis. My community has had enough, and we demand a commitment to majority affordable development.

In October, the City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee held a marathon hearing lasting almost 7 hours to review the Innovation QNS proposal. The community was overwhelmingly critical, as 565 people opposed this project and 83 people supported the project.

This project as it currently stands would be a majority unaffordable luxury development in the heart of working-class Astoria. If this project were to move forward, market-rate apartments would be completely out of reach for my neighbors in the area, where the median rent is currently $1,686.

A market-rate two bedroom in Innovation QNS could cost $4,000 or more, affordable only to families making over $158,000/yr. That is more than double the local median income of the local area, and totally inaccessible to nearly all those who live there now.

The testimonies of my courageous neighbors before the Council reflect our neighborhood’s shared identity. Astoria has been the landing pad for immigrants, artists, and working class folks in our city for generations, including my family.

We found our start in Astoria when my uncle moved here from South Korea 40 years ago to work at a dry cleaners. As with countless immigrants before us, our neighbors welcomed us in to build a new life, alongside people from all over the world.

For decades, this community created Astoria’s uniquely diverse and vibrant culture, which evolves with each group of people who join us. Unfortunately, the Innovation QNS project seeks to monetize this very culture, while placing those who shaped it under immediate threat of displacement.

Since Innovation QNS arrived at the City Council this October, I have been in active negotiations with the developers, the Mayor’s team, and the City Council Land Use Division to fight for more affordability.

I have offered alternative solutions to reach the community’s ask of 55 percent affordable units: accept project based vouchers for those currently in our shelter system, repurpose office spaces and parking spaces into affordable housing units, leverage Article XI and 420-c tax incentives, and work with HPD to create permanently affordable apartments for extremely low-income residents.

As we await a final offer from the Innovation QNS team, I remain hopeful that the concerns of affordability from our community will not be ignored.

Allowing developers to build luxury market rate units without proper set-asides for affordability has and will raise rents throughout the city.

I believe that the solution to our affordable housing crisis is simple: build more affordable housing. As a City, we can no longer allow luxury development to outpace the construction of affordable housing.

Our community is asking for 55 percent affordability from the Innovation QNS project, because we’ve seen what happens when we don’t. I call on the Mayor, the Council Speaker, and my Council colleagues to join me in calling for greater affordability—because our city deserves better.

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39 Comments

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Get Rid of AMIs

Truly affordable housing is sorely needed. This means lower income households must be able to apply, which will never happen while AMIs are in place.
In addition, the infrastructure cannot deal with such a large development.
Thank you Julie Won. Stick to your ideals.

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Tali

It’s kind of hard to get an apartment when there’s only say 20 available and 25000 people apply. It’s a crap shoot. Lottery is an appropriate word.

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Lela

Good for you, Ms. Won! Thank you for standing up. Now see if you can get Phipps to shut down the project that will make seniors and disabled people leave the neighborhood they worked for years to keep attractive. We didn’t do it to be thrown out when we need more support.

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The Cummings Family

Julie – All of the new market rate and luxury housing will be affordable in no time. The newly arrived bums to the area will guarantee it. I was hit up, (aggressively each time)by three bums just on my short walk from CVS to our home on 46th Street. I’ve lived in this neighborhood over 60 years and never have seen so many aggressive and obviously intoxicated bums not to mention the 3 Schizophrenics who have commandeered the benches outside the deli on 47th street and Queens Blvd and the health food store. My family are several generation Democrat, my parents campaigned and worked for Jimmy Delaney and Thomas Manton back in the 60’s and I have as two of my brothers have considered leaving the party my family actually help to build. My granddaughter is literally terrified to walk down Queens Blvd and take the subway to school. Are you going to wait for one of these poor unfortunates commits an unthinkable crime before you and your office steps up?

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Move along Won

Honestly i think Won is on a mission for the destruction of America and she’s starting with queens. If she doesn’t like the American way of prosperity & capitalism then she should go live somewhere else

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Imani

oh it was just fine when blks and latinos were getting kicked out of Astoria so I really dont care about poor asians and and whites not being able to afford this. Built it and let me know where i can apply for one the cheap apartments.

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Diversity plaza is great!

What does that got to do with it?
They sell beer in a deli and cops give you open alcohol containers tickets. Give ticket to weed smoking people

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Kevin

Astoria is surrounded by housing projects – Astoria houses, Ravenswood projects, woodside projects and the largest public housing complex in USA – Queensbridge houses is withing walking distance from Astoria…

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Sergio

I bike by that area all the time, it’s literally abandoned warehouses in an area which was hit even harder by the pandemic. The fact that these discount wanna-be AOC’s are opposing this effort to improve the area is insane!!

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Casey

I hope this project gets built. Looking to move when my lease is up because I am tired all the weed smoking going on especially on the balconies of this new developments.

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Jasmine

As a queens resident I don’t want these karens and kens from some fly over state moving into my neighborhood.

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I know you don’t own property in Astoria

As a long time Queens resident I welcome driven hard working, law abiding citizens from anywhere.

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Choo

Maybe the city needs to LEASE the land and control what gets built. . . like every other major developed city in the world. Stop building “luxury” apartments and start building REAL apartment buildings for the lower and mid middle class. Like normal, basic 1-3 bedroom apartment buildings without lobbies and front desks (why do you want to live in a place like a hotel?). Tokyo has no real housing problem despite being far more populated than NYC in part because of how and what they build. Everything in America is either for the very poor or very rich these days and not just for the universal normal public with normal income.

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Sanchez

Affordable housing should be 55% .( And a third of the 55% . Should go to a step out of homeless and or out of domestic violence or if you have a fire or health situation. Apt rate).

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Kimberly

Current “affordable housing” is FAWLED. I’ve applied for the past 4 years, meeting the salary requirements and am still waiting. They receive those “affordable housing” for city workers, not your every day New Yorker who doesn’t make 100K+ a year!!

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Tali

It’s kind of hard to get an apartment when there’s only say 20 available and 25000 people apply. It’s a crap shoot. Lottery is an appropriate word.

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Adela

It is the bird month and time to plan for the big stuffing dinner on Nov 24th. Cant afford the turkey. Hopefully they will give out Turkeys this year.

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Sunnyside resident

I respectfully disagree with your solution to the housing crisis, which is essentially to say leave the area that includes one-story auto body shops there to the detriment of any housing, just because that housing may include stainless steel appliances or whatnot. The development will create jobs, however temporary, and help boost the area for the area residents who, yes, worked hard to sometimes own their own place — and that is not bad. Your demands on the for-profit development companies are plainly ridiculous and an attempt to create a poison pill. I know, I get it, the area progressives who just came out of their sociology seminar at Vassar want to help those they have essentially kicked out of Astoria by paying the gentrified rents, and God bless them. And no doubt, joking and snide aside, that we must do better to mitigate the housing cost crisis for poor and middle class alike. But your stance will not mitigate, never mind solve, the crisis.

And gentrification of Astoria? Please. That ship has sailed, like, 20 years ago.

Let the city create jobs, collect some much needed tax revenue, and please work with your colleagues in City government to find real solutions to these challenging problems, not bumper-sticker slogans.

Thanks from one of your constituents.

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Glenn

We need more housing. A lot of people that left NYC during the pandemic are coming back. Many of the people that left for Florida don’t want to deal with the hurricanes and tired of being told to evacuate.

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Madd Donna

Well tough nuggies as they say. They decided to flee NYC and now want the red carpet rolled out for them?? Same assholes who fled NYC following 9/11. Real New Yorkers stick it out!

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Woodsider

I’m sorry you had to suffer through a marathon 7 hour meeting. Although most people would call that less than a day’s work. How about the Asian women who are being forced into prostitution along Roosevelt Avenue? They are standing on the street way more than 7 hours soliciting men as they walk by with their children. This activity is now taking place in front of two locations on Roosevelt Avenue between 61st and 64th streets. Victims of people trafficking seem to be low on your priority list. I’ve contacted you through your proper channels on this without a response, and of course without any action.

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Gia

Building more luxury housing in Astoria helped elect socialists like AOC, Caban, Zohran, Won, etc. The people who are paying those high rents are voting progressive and made Astoria the epicenter of the progressive movement in Queens. Progressives will be first to house this development and afford it and then complain about racial injustice and housing segregation while kicking out the poor and people of color.

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Robinette Obiden

“A market-rate two bedroom in Innovation QNS could cost $4,000 or more, affordable only to families making over $158,000/yr. That is more than double the local median income of the local area” its called gentrification. progressive socialists invented it. you push the poor out and you bring in the rich. that’s how you improve neighborhoods. just ask AOC.

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Mac

You obviously don’t know history. AOC only took office in 2019. Gentrification has been going on slot longer than that. Astoria and Sunnyside never were that bad as to require “gentrification” like Williamsburg, Bushwick and Harlem did. I’m old enough to renter the “gentrification” of Brooklyn Heights and the Village.

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Jones

Thank you Won. Now can you fix the heat at Woodside Housing. My apartment is freezing!! Hot water aint hot when its cold out!! Hope to see sone official this holiday season giving out gifts and toys.

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Sunnysider

Get the bum who has set up shop at the south entrance of the 47th street entrance to 7 train removed. My granddaughter is petrified of the this man. I’ve sent Ms. Wons office photos and e mails begging for some assistance in this matter. Oh by the way has anyone else noticed Philomena’s has reopened with the very same staff?

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