Developers of Silvercup West Agree To Add Affordable Housing Units

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The New York Sun

The developers of a planned $1 billion mega-project on the Queens waterfront agreed to cough up 150 units of affordable housing to help their proposal pass a vote by the city’s planning commission yesterday.

The developers of the proposed Silvercup West, brothers Alan and Stuart Suna, have promised to build the below-market-rate apartments within a half-mile radius of the site where they aim to build nearly 3 million square feet of apartments,offices,film studios, and retail space. They are proposing to build three towers on a six-acre site just south of the Queensboro Bridge.

It would be the first New York project design by Lord Richard Rogers, the architect of London’s Millennium Dome.

As part of the city’s land use approval process, a final vote from the City Council is required by mid-September.

In May, city planning commissioners told the Suna brothers to go back to the drawing board and add some affordable housing units to their plan.The developers argued at that hearing that cutting some of the 1,000 market-rate apartments would limit their ability to subsidize the studio space.

Yesterday, the chairwoman of the planning commission, Amanda Burden, called the design “iconic” and said the project was “one of the most important private applications that has come before this commission.”

In a statement, Stuart Suna said the changes “have made this project better and we look forward to the City Council’s review of the proposed plans.”

The affordable housing concession was largely the result of pressure by Ms. Burden and the local City Council member, Eric Gioia, according to planning commissioners and members of the local Community Board 2.

Mr. Gioia, a Democrat, said he has been working to insure that booming residential development on the Queens waterfront, boasting sensational views of Midtown Manhattan, is not merely an enclave for the rich. The council member supports the Silvercup project, which he said will be an economic engine for the area, but he said the addition of the affordable apartments is important.

“It is important that we use zoning and be bold with all the tools we have,” Mr. Gioia said. “The middle class is being squeezed out of the city.”

A member of the local community board, Lisa Deller, applauded the addition of affordable housing, but said was worried about the prospect of “ghettoization”because the units could be as far as half a mile away.

“We are worried that a lot of the new developments are targeted for the affluent and this is one of them,” Ms. Deller said.

She said she still hopes that the affordable housing will be moved onsite.

“It still has to go to city council,” Ms. Deller said.

Other local community board members said they were relieved that an affordable hosing component was added to the project. Some still expressed concerns that the project does not include enough infrastructure improvements to the surrounding area to accommodate the influx of people and traffic.

The Suna brothers started Silvercup Studios in the early 1980s at a location just to the east of the proposed project site. Those studios were home to shows like “The Sopranos” and “Sex and the City.”

The Silvercup West project is expected to create an estimated 2,200 construction jobs and 3,900 permanent jobs.The developers have said the commercial tower could be scrapped if funding is scarce.

The New York Sun

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