Developers Present Updated Plan for Peninsula Hospital Site

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“The clock officially starts now,” Councilman Donovan Richards said before a packed house at the RISE Center, where many gathered for an information session on the plan for the future of the old Peninsula Hospital site.

The ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Procedure) for the redevelopment plan has officially begun and principals, Alex Arker and Dan Moritz, from the developer, Arker Companies, were on hand on the evening of Tuesday, May 7, to present the latest details of their plan. As a Councilman, Richards explained that he and City Council will have the final say on the plan, so it is important to gather input directly from the community now. “We want to make sure we give the community a lot of say on the things they’d like to see in a specific project and we want the developers to understand the needs of the community. I want to make sure that towards the end of this process, when it comes before City Council, that I feel comfortable with your input in the plan,” Richards said.

Arker first revealed their mixed-use development plan for the site in early 2018, after purchasing the property in 2016. The presentation of the latest plan showed that some changes have been made since the original plan was presented, but at Tuesday’s meeting, many pointed out that the plan still needs to be revised, including Councilman Richards. “I’m currently not in support of the plan that has been proposed. We have a long way to go with negotiations,” Richards said.

The new plan reflected a few changes since the original. For instance, the original plan included the development of 17 buildings. The new one only has 11 buildings. However, the number of units has remained the same, meaning the buildings will be taller. The developers plan to create 2,200 residential units on the less than 10-acre property. Of the 2,200 units, 1,927 would be income-restricted up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) to include approximately 201 units set aside for Affordable Independent Residences for Seniors, with the remaining 273 units restricted to income levels not exceeding 130% of AMI. The prior plan included 151,800 square feet of retail space, while the new plan includes nearly half as much, with 72,000 square feet of retail space. The amount of publicly-accessible open space has also decreased from 37,600 square feet in the original plan to 24,000 square feet in the new plan. One positive change is a parking increase. The original plan called for 677 parking spaces for the residential units and the retail businesses. The new plan includes 973 parking spaces. The plan will also include a privately-owned, publicly accessible street space on Beach 52nd Street, which will allow residents to sit in or walk through and will contain retail space for local entrepreneurs to set up shop.

Moritz explained that the entire development would be built in phases and the project could take 10 to 15 years to be fully completed, with an expected completion in 2034. Moritz gave an overview of the Phase 1, which will include some residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail, including a new 20,000-square-foot supermarket. The deve­lopers are in talks with supermarket company, Western Beef, which had a say in the design, which led to some of the retail space and parking space changes in the new plan. Phase 1 will also include 296 parking spaces and investment in new storm infrastructure. Other representatives were available to talk more about some of the development’s resiliency measures and others explained the specific land use sanctions, including some zoning changes, that will be necessary to move the project forward.

Following the presentation, the floor was opened to questions and concerns from attendees. Some brought up things that weren’t mentioned in the presentation like the desire for a community center and a school. Councilman Richards explained that the plan was still in the beginning stages and that these things can be discussed and added so that they’re incorporated into the final plan, if possible.

A major concern for a few community members is the density of the project, with the development of 2,200 units. Some expressed concern that this would bring in at least 6,000 new people to the neighborhood in a place that lacks certain resources, transportation and adequate infrastructure. Councilman Richards said that at least 50 percent of the units, and likely more, would be reserved, with first priority given to people that already live in the neighborhood. The developers also explained the reasoning behind such a high density, saying it was necessary to allow for the building to be affordable, and to support some of the community benefits that the project will bring, such as the supermarket. Richards added that it was likely that the number of units will eventually be scaled back to some degree.

Many members of various construction unions were on hand to express a desire to work on the project. Arker gave an unsatisfactory answer saying, “We are depending on city financing for these projects and that financing doesn’t always support union work. We have city financing here that doesn’t always support union wages. We did a project down the road that was a union job, but today, we do not know how much we have available for union work.” However he did add that Union 32BJ is already on board and he’s open to working with other unions to determine if they can be a part of this project. 

Some also questioned what “affordable housing” means and urged that the development should accommodate a mix of incomes. “You say you’re building affordable housing, but the idea is to give people an opportunity for an economically diversified neighborhood. I don’t think the plan you’re putting forward does that,” Arverne resident Glenn DiResto said. “A majoriy is for those at 80% AMI or lower. It doesn’t balance out incomes. I understand the need for affordable housing, but only 13% is going to be for people with 80% AMI or higher, so if a wife makes $35,000 and a husband makes $35,000, they do not qualify. You very much need to look at a balance of income here.” Richards and the developers said they agree that a mix of incomes is necessary.

Tuesday’s meeting was just the beginning of the ULURP process and those from Arker say they plan on meeting with the community further to gain more input on the plan. The developers expect Community Board 14 to have their 60-day review period between May and July. Then the Queens Borough President will have 30 days to review it, expected between July and August. The City Planning Commission will then have a 60-day review period between August and October and it is expected to be reviewed by City Council sometime around October/November 2019.

A website regarding the project is also expected to launch soon. 

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