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Marshall lauds Hunters Point at public hearing

The debate over what constitutes "affordable" at the proposed 5,000-unit Hunters Point South residential development in Long Island City picked up momentum last week at a public hearing at Borough Hall.

Borough President Helen Marshall praised the plan, but said she supported the efforts of affordable housing advocates to get more low-income units established in the project.

"It's an alternate plan that I think should be considered," she said. "I think that could work."

At this point, officials said, 50 percent of the affordable units will be earmarked for residents of Community District 2, which includes Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside. Civil service employees and the mobility impaired will each get 5 percent of the affordable units and those with visual and hearing disabilities will get 2 percent, officials said.

But the affordable housing component, which will comprise 60 percent of the 5,000 units, still set its target salary too high for Queens housing advocates at the meeting. The target income for a family of four is between $55,000 and $168,000, according to information on the city Economic Development Corporation's Web site.

"Nearly 60 percent of households in Queens don't make $55,000 a year," said Richard Lee, an advocacy associate with Asian Americans for Equality. He called for 20 percent of the affordable units to be earmarked for families making less than $25,000 a year and 30 percent for families making between $25,000 and $35,000.

The city Economic Development Corporation has tuned its affordable housing numbers down slightly. A single person earning between $31,600 and $44,300 would be eligible for a studio apartment in Hunters Point South. When the project was first presented to the public in April, that income level started at $36,800.

The EDC announced it had made many of the changes demanded by Community Board 2 when it approved the plan by a vote of 20-0 last month. These include having a community representative on the board if a nonprofit group is formed to develop the site, involving the community in the design of the project's parks, setting aside space for a 46,000-square-foot community facility and giving affordable unit preference to certain groups.

Joe Conley, chairman of CB 2, praised the EDC for its willingness to hear the community's concerns.

"They did an exceptional job listening to our rants and ravings," he said. "We got very close to what we had hoped for."

Before being approved, the plan must go through Marshall's office, the City Council and the Department of City Planning.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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