If Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill, it will transfer the land from the state Parks Department to the City Housing Authority (NYCHA), facilitating a rezoning to reconfigure some of the streets that run through Astoria Houses and requiring the Hallets Cove Playground to remain as park land.
The street reconfiguration will allow Lincoln Equities Development, the company responsible for developing the area, to move forward with the project.
Lincoln Equities plans to spruce up the playground, construct affordable housing at the industrial site known as Hallets Point to be added to Astoria Houses, and develop the waterfront up to the sidewalk in front of Astoria Park, known as “the strip.”
Parties involved in the project said developing Hallets Point will benefit Astoria Houses, which is currently isolated from the rest of Queens, but also the community as a whole by adding new open space and waterfront recreation to Astoria.
Despite having fought for the development of Hallets Point since his first days in office, Senator Michael Gianaris, who represents Astoria, said he was hesitant to support the project because of its potential strain on the area's infrastructure, but was assured by Lincoln Equities that the company will be cautious.
“Western Queens is continuing to grow and that's good for our economy and it's good for the neighborhood, but we need to make sure that that growth is responsible so that infrastructure keeps up with the people moving in,” Gianaris said.
Andrew Moesel, a spokesman for Lincoln Equities, said one of the goals of the project is to give the residents of Astoria Houses services that they don't currently have – such as a grocery store and a bank.
“We think that this is going to revive that entire neighborhood of Queens,” Moesel said. “It's going to bring much-needed resources like grocery stores, potentially a school, and other things that the community sorely lacks.”
The 31,000-square-foot supermarket will be on the ground floor of a market-rate apartment building, along with other retail space to consist of several restaurants and cafes, a bank, dry cleaner, pizzeria, and bakery, according to Lincoln Equities.
Bishop Mitchell Taylor, president and CEO of the East River Development Alliance, said Astoria Houses is currently a retail desert.
“Astoria Houses is one of the most segregated populations in Queens,” Taylor said. “That is the poorest geographical swatch in Astoria, why should we continue to neglect that?”
He called the Legislature's passage of the bill a big piece of a larger puzzle.
“It's going to add more of a sense of community, it's going to bring more retail and services to the community,” Taylor said. “This is an opportunity for us to demonstrate and prove that when you create mixed communities, you will have prosperity for everyone.”