Board eyes city lot for senior apts.

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George Delis, the district manager...

By Dustin Brown

A city street that was mapped but never actually built in Astoria may be developed into a few hundred units of senior housing to help meet what community leaders are describing as one of the city’s most urgent needs.

George Delis, the district manager for Community Board 1, is eyeing a litter-strewn plot of land along Eighth Street between 27th Avenue and Astoria Boulevard as a viable location for a public housing complex dedicated to senior citizens and the disabled.

“Hopefully, we could get 300 units there,” Delis said in a phone interview Monday. “The greatest need we have in this city is affordable senior housing.”

Goodwill Industries, a nonprofit agency that already runs a senior apartment complex only a block away from the site, has expressed an interest in developing the project, which officials stressed is only in a very early conceptual stage.

“This is not going to happen overnight,” said William Forrester, the executive vice president for Goodwill Industries of Greater New York. “Whether Goodwill is the major facilitator or another group, what we want is what’s best for this area and to create homes for the community.”

In December, Forrester presented the idea to Goodwill’s board of directors, which gave him the green light to explore it further.

The city-owned lot is officially designed 28th Avenue on maps, although in reality it is not a street but an empty, rectangular plot of land wedged between an apartment complex and a row of homes and businesses across from the Astoria Houses.

“It’s a mapped street, but it will never develop,” Delis said. “It’s just a vacant lot that is always being dumped on illegally.”

But before the project can advance the phantom street must be demapped, a lengthy application procedure that begins at the community board level and winds its way up to the city Board of Standards and Appeals as part of the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Process.

Delis has already met with John Young, the Queens director of the Department of City Planning, which will help facilitate the application process.

The city would likely sign a long-term lease for the property with Goodwill, Delis said, which would secure funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and other governmental sources.

Goodwill’s headquarters are located around the corner at 4-21 27th Ave., and the agency has already spearheaded a number of community development projects to improve the quality of life in the neighborhood that has been dubbed “Two Coves.”

“For over 25 years we’ve been running the Goodwill Terrace apartment site here,” Forrester said, alluding to the organization’s existing senior housing complex. “We’ve done community initiatives here. It fits our pattern — it’s our theme.”

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria), who fought two years ago to secure an extension of Section 8 housing at the Marine Terrace apartments, has shown a keen interest in Goodwill’s plans.

Phil Craft, Maloney’s spokesman, said the congresswoman plans to write a letter to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help secure funding for the project when the time comes.

“It’s an important project to the congresswo­man,” Craft said. “She plans on doing everything possible to help make the project a reality.”

Although the timeline is uncertain, Delis is drumming up support for a project he said would help alleviate a housing crunch that will only become more severe as the population ages.

“If you’re a senior citizen your status doesn’t change,” Delis said. “Do you expect a 75-year-old to go out and get a job? Your status doesn’t change, it gets worse.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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