City Wants Affordable Homes In Arverne East
The city’s solicitation for developers interested in transforming the last part of the Arverne Urban Renewal Area includes an affordable housing requirement – a last-minute amendment that surprised key community board members.
The Request For Proposal (RFP) for Arverne East, which the city’s Housing and Preservation Department released at the end of August, requires 20 percent of the total number of housing units to “be affordable to households with incomes no greater than 130 percent of Area Median Income.” That translates to a combined annual income of about $82,000.
That stipulation was not embraced by members of Community Board 14, many of whom first heard the news at last week’s meeting, the first regular meeting of the post-summer-break season. Chairperson Delores Orr had met with HPD reps in June and wrote a letter to them in July “to memorialize some of [the board’s] concerns,” which addressed the housing requirement as well as other items.
“We restate our strong position that the amount of housing units be significantly reduced to an amount much less than the approved 1,500 units and that they be market rate one and two family homes,” Orr said in her letter. But the board’s advisory opinion was not enough to sway the city.
CB14 received a response from Wendell B. Walters, HPD Assistant Commissioner, on September 12. “In our presentation to you (Orr) and the Executive Committee of the Board in June we outlined our intent to develop a project that would serve a mix of incomes. The decision to include a specific affordability component, however, was made by HPD subsequent to our discussions with you in June,” Walters wrote.
“This goes against what we approved,” Jonathan Gaska, CB14 District Manager, told The Wave. “We want to meet [again] with HPD.”
Gaska added that the board has in the past given lots of support to affordable housing. “We supported over 1,000 units of affordable housing, more than any other community board in Queens. Clearly we have a commitment.”
Gaska said he was working to set up a meeting with HPD soon.
While the affordable housing component was a surprise, the rest of the RFP document appears much more in line with CB14’s goals, which Orr made clear in her letter when she requested the following: That retail/commercial and recreation be the primary objective of the RFP to create “much needed” full-time jobs; The development of a nationally known hotel chain; That land is set aside for a school, and if it is determined later that the school is not needed, the land shall be used for active recreation/park uses; That a provision be put in the developer’s agreement that would require them and their subcontractors to hire 25 percent local construction workers, that HPD strongly encourages the use of local vendors and businesses for supplying the development team and its subcontractors; and that qualified local residents and Minority and Women Business Entrepreneurs be given the opportunity to open retail stores within the entire scope of the project.
The board also supports the development of a “big box” retailer.
HPD says Arverne East “offers developers an opportunity to transform a long-neglected community into a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood.
“A renaissance of the Rockaways is now underway, and Arvere East completes the city’s plan to create a unique oceanfront community that will complement the existing neighborhood and recent developments,” the RFP says. “Other commercial uses can include a hotel/conference center and related office space and entertainment/recreational facilities.” The RFP describes the construction of a “Central Park” before development begins, the construction of a dune preserve and the creation or maintenance of beach access with at least four walkways on Beach 44, 38, 35 and 32 Streets. It says a new public school or charter school “may also be” proposed.
Arverne East covers 81-acres with about 47 acres that can be developed, according to the RFP. It is bounded to the north by Rockaway Beach Boulevard, Edgemere Avenue, Rockaway Freeway and Seagirt Boulevard, to the east by Beach 32 Street, to the south by the boardwalk and to the west by Beach 44 Street.
The complete RFP can be viewed at local libraries or online at www.NYC. gov/HPD (enter “Arverne East” into the search area. Proposals are due by December 19, 2005.