May 15, 2018 By Tara Law
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz approved a proposed zoning change on 82nd Street last week that would permit developers to construct a controversial 13-story mixed-use building.
Katz’s decision, although advisory, marks an important step forward for the project which the developers titled “The Shoppes at 82nd Street.”
The developers, Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group, need a portion of the property to be rezoned in order to construct a 120-unit residential building at 40-31 82nd St., a block from the 82nd Street-Jackson Heights subway station.
Katz released her decision shortly after Councilmember Francisco Moya notified her that he had decided to support the rezoning following a deal he struck with the developers. The companies told Moya that they would designate 42 units as “affordable” and most of those units would be for people with very low incomes.
Moya’s consent–contingent on the developers meeting the terms of the agreement–virtually guarantees the rezoning will take place, since the Council will likely defer to Moya when it holds a binding vote on whether to approve the project. The only other body which has binding vote is the City Planning Commission, although it is unlikely to vote the project down at this stage.
Katz noted in her opinion that the developers would have been permitted to construct a large building anyway— nine stories as of right—and would not have been required to build affordable units. Katz added that Target has signed a lease in the building and would be a tenant with or without zoning approval.
The city requires developers, upon a rezoning, to designate 25 to 30 percent of apartment units as affordable under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing laws. With Moya’s deal, 35 percent of the units will be affordable at low income levels.
Under the agreement, 20 percent of the housing units— or 24 apartments— are to be set aside for residents making 40 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI), or $31,080 for a family of three.
An additional six apartments—or 5 percent of the units— are to be designated at 50 percent AMI; another six units at 60 percent AMI; and six unit at 80 percent AMI, or $68,720 for a three-person household.
Katz wrote in her recommendation to approve the project that the “affordable housing is necessary” and the number of units offered is a “good starting point.”
She said that she is satisfied that Target will make an effort to hire local residents based on her conversations with the company.
Katz recommended that the developer work with community-based organizations to find local retailers and providers for retail spaces in the new building.
“This is necessary to assure that local neighborhood based providers are given real opportunities to locate into the new development,” said Katz.
Katz also attempted to address concerns about the development exacerbating vehicular traffic in the area.
She recommended the developer hire monitors to mind the entrance to the building’s parking garage, which will have 128 parking spaces, in order to guide vehicles in and out of the garage.
The project’s critics have argued since the project was announced in 2016 that the development will drive up local housing prices; lead to congested streets; overburden public transportation; and contribute to school overcrowding.
Local businesses also say that they will struggle to compete with Target.
Community Board 4 rejected the developer’s proposal in March. Community Board members said that they were worried the development would have a gentrifying impact on the neighborhood and overcrowd the surrounding area.
Katz wrote in her advisory statement that she had received letters from local groups such as Queensboro Houses Association, People’s Cultural Plan and Queens Neighborhoods United in opposition to the project. The organizations expressed concerns about school overcrowding, increased 7 train ridership, higher commercial rents and gentrification, Katz wrote.
Both Katz and the community board do not have the authority to veto the proposal, and can only advise the City Planning Commission and the City Council.