Astoria Cove Architect: East River is ‘Next Central Park’


Jay Valgora
Jay Valgora poses next to a model of the Queens waterfront in the Studio V Architecture headquarters. (Tobias Salinger)

The proposed 8.7-acre, 1,723-unit Astoria Cove development will allow residents of the peninsula the waterfront access and community benefits the area hasn’t enjoyed for decades, Astoria Cove architect Jay Valgora told Commercial Observer.

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Mr. Valgora, the principal of Studio V Architecture, designed the Queens development that an investment team which includes Alma Realty is applying for a permit to build before the City Council in the final stage of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure.

Astoria Cove would team with another Studio V project, the adjacent 2,404-unit Hallets Point complex where the Durst Organization recently acquired a 90 percent stake, to provide the transit, schools and retail services that members of the community told Mr. Valgora they wanted while also unlocking the potential of the East River-fronting property, he said.

“The waterfront is the single greatest opportunity in New York City,” Mr. Valgora said at his Midtown studio near a plastic model of the remade shores with towers overlooking Hallet’s Cove and Pot Cove. “As an architect and an urbanist, I believe that the waterfront is the single greatest opportunity for New York City and cities throughout America. We can’t build another Central Park; the next Central Park is the East River.”

Both complexes feature potential locations for schools, public esplanades, grocery stores and amenities that Mr. Valgora says he designed after talking with residents of the nearby Astoria Houses and business owners in the area’s few eateries and stores over the past eight years.

Studio V also undertook a $500,000 feasibility study authorized by the city under the Hallets Point rezoning last year for the potential design and location of a ferry terminal in the area. At both sites, the developers would like to bring a new ferry route to Manhattan from the peninsula, but city policymakers will have the final say, Mr. Valgora noted.

Both the 2.5-million-square-foot Hallets Point and the 2.2-million-square foot Astoria Cove also promise affordable housing–483 units at Hallets and currently 345 units at Astoria Cove. But area residents in and around the 1,102-unit Astoria Houses aren’t fixated on the political discussions around those figures, Mr. Valgora said.

“It’s strange to focus so much on affordable housing when that’s all that’s there,” he said, “What we’re doing is creating a balanced community.”

But the City Council might evaluate that vision in a new light after officials with the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development revealed last week that the city’s 421-a tax abatement maps would require a different and potentially-deeper affordability component if the developers elect to apply for it at the site. The Council must vote up or down on the proposal by Nov. 18, according to the Department of City Planning.