Council member Ung wants affordable housing alternatives considered at site of future homeless center
March 2022 By Michael Dorgan
Several Flushing civic groups that aim to stop the development of a homeless facility on College Point Boulevard have found an ally in council member Sandra Ung.
The Flushing lawmaker is asking the city to find ways to develop the vacant site for affordable housing — instead of a site for transitional housing.
The empty site, located at 39-03 College Point Blvd., has been a source of controversy since building permits were filed last year for the 90-unit transitional housing development. The development, which would be seven stories high, would consist of supportive housing units, providing temporary apartments for homeless families to help them return to long-term housing.
The Department of Homeless Services (DHS) plans to develop the project with the nonprofit group Asian Americans for Equality (AAFE), a Manhattan-based organization that provides transitional housing as well as affordable housing for Americans living in of Asian descent and various underprivileged communities. .
The proposal has faced stiff opposition from residents and local leaders who say they do not want the facility built. A petition to block development – which should costs about $440 million – collected more than 60,000 signatures in the opposition. The proposal is currently on hold.
On Monday, Ung wrote a letter to Adolfo Carrión, the Housing Preservation and Development (DHS) commissioner, asking him to provide details about the type of affordable housing projects that could be built on the site.
His letter was inspired by local civic groups who have openly opposed the construction of transitional housing, favoring affordable housing instead.
AAFE conducted an assessment of the site and determined that affordable housing is not financially feasible for the site and therefore elected to move forward with transitional housing instead.
“AAFE conducted an internal review of available housing programs and city-administered funding streams, and found that with the options available, there would be a funding gap that would make the development of affordable housing unrealistic” , wrote Ung.
Ung asked Carrión to describe any government-administered programs, funding, or grants available to AAFE to develop affordable housing on the site instead of the homeless housing proposal.
AAFE, according to Ung, also said it could only develop 54 affordable housing units on the site under current zoning laws and that a project of such a size would not qualify for the usual sources of funding available. for affordable housing developers.
“If this is indeed true, what size of development would it take for a developer to qualify [for] municipal, state or federal programs and funding? Ung wrote.
Ung also said she would support a rezoning of the site, if it resulted in more affordable housing being built.
“If rezoning the property to allow for some increase in density would make affordable housing possible, given the community’s desire for this type of project versus transitional housing, my office would support a rezoning and help move the proposal forward in the ULURP process,” Ung wrote.
She called on Carrión to provide the requested information for more transparency. Ung said a lack of information on the site creates confusion and mistrust among community members.
Representatives of local community groups say they don’t trust the city to stick with the current plan to provide temporary apartments for homeless families.
They point to the city’s use of the nearby Wyndham Gardens Fresh Meadows hotel, which was established to house newly released inmates from Rikers Island for three months. The establishment, they say, remained open for almost two years.
Jerry Lo, acting president of Flushing United, a group created to block the proposed facility, said about 60 community organizations have joined his group’s efforts to block the current proposal. Flushing United also started the petition.
The current proposal, however, has support from homeless advocates.
Proponents of the transitional housing development said the facility would provide much-needed temporary housing for families who may have lost their homes or been housed in illegal basement apartments. They also note that this is not a traditional shelter.
The purpose of the units, they say, is to help families get back on their feet.