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Affordable housing advocates joined City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) along Long Island City's waterfront last weekend to call for cheaper units in the neighborhood as the city awaits the end of an approval process before moving forward with a massive development project.
More than 100 borough residents joined Gioia and advocacy groups, including Habitat for Humanity and the Queens Community House, on Center Boulevard Sunday, where they chanted "public land for the public" and called on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to create more affordable housing in the city.
Hannah Weinstock, a spokeswoman for nonprofit Queens for Affordable Housing, said the advocates wanted to make sure that the 5,000 new units being created in Hunters Point South, which serves as the third and fourth phases of the 74-acre Queens West project along Vernon Boulevard, are not market-rate luxury apartments.
"A lot of luxury apartments here are sitting empty," she said. "So, we do not know why the city wants to build more luxury apartments when there is such a need for affordable housing. This is a working-class neighborhood and we are getting all these million-dollar condos. People are having to choose between food and rent. Salaries are staying the same, but food, rent and gas prices are going up, up, up."
Quazi Raihan, 35, of Woodside, said her husband only earns $900 per month and that she must share a two-bedroom home with another family.
"Our rent is too much," she said. "My 5-and-1/2-year-old son needs physical therapy because he cannot walk properly and we need more space for him. But we cannot afford it."
Bloomberg's $7.5 billion New Housing Marketplace plan will create 165,000 units of affordable housing at locations across the five boroughs, including Queens West, by 2015. But housing advocates said the plan would only create units for households earning between $60,000 to $150,000 per year.
Weinstock said the median income for Long Island City families of four was $44,000 per year. She said there are a number of families in the neighborhood that earn $15,000 to $25,000 per year.
Gioia said the influx of luxury apartments has forced long-time neighborhood residents to flee for less expensive communities.
"Housing has become far too expensive and people are being pushed out of New York City," he said. "People come here to make a better life for themselves. That's the profound idea of America, but housing has become so expensive that it is making that dream unattainable."
Hunters Point South, which is being created through the city Economic Development Corporation, is currently in the middle of a seven-month approval process that should culminate by year's end, EDC spokeswoman Janel Paterson said. The project will include 60 percent affordable housing.
The state's portion of Queens West is being handled by the Empire State Development Corp.
Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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