Astoria Developer Tries to Resurrect 350-Unit Waterfront Project

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The developer of a large site near the Queens waterfront wants to renew its special permit to develop a multi-building, 350-unit complex on Vernon Boulevard, five years after it originally won a rezoning, according to plans filed with the Department of City Planning

Owner Cipico Construction hopes to knock down a single-story warehouse at 32-01 Vernon Boulevard in Astoria, Queens, to construct three mixed-use buildings, topping out at five, nine and 14 stories. The 334,000-square-foot project would include 351 apartments,116 of which would be permanently affordable, as required by the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing program, according to the plans.

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The development would also include 11,236 square feet of commercial space, 6,800 square feet of community facilities, and 16,000 square feet of public open space, according to the filing. The public space at the corner of 11th Street and 33rd Road will include landscaping, lighting, benches, and movable tables and chairs. 

Cipico has owned the property since the 1980s and has rented it to a variety of industrial tenants, with Sovereign Hydroseal, an industrial waterproofing firm, currently occupying the building. The 77,000-square-foot site sits near the Noguchi Museum and just across Vernon Boulevard from Socrates Sculpture Park and Rainey Park, public spaces along the East River. 

The developer wants a renewal of its special permit and a modification of zoning rules to allow different heights and setbacks than current zoning rules allow. 

Representatives from Cipico Construction couldn’t be reached for comment, and its land use lawyer didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

The New York City Council originally approved the project back in October 2019, with the support of then-Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer. The special permit expired last year, and construction had not yet begun. 

Although the development does not need to go through the full rezoning process again, renewal of the special permit would still likely require the support of the current local City Council member, Julie Won. The developers would also need a tax exemption of some kind to finance construction, but state legislators and Gov. Kathy Hochul have not reached an agreement on a replacement for the 421a tax exemption, which expired in June 2022. 

Rebecca Baird-Remba can be reached at rbairdremba@commercialobserver.com.