Affordable-housing development in Queens breaks ground

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The Hunter's Point South development in Queens, touted as the largest affordable-housing project since the 1970s, will offer middle-income families rental apartments that are "permanently" affordable, officials said Monday as ground was broken on the first buildings.

"The purpose of these affordable-housing units is for families to have a rent they can afford permanently and whose rents will not accelerate faster than the market rate," said Adam Weinstein, president and chief executive of the Phipps Houses Group, a nonprofit company that provides affordable housing to low-income families.

Weinstein was one of a dozen officials Monday with Mayor Michael Bloomberg who ceremoniously broke ground for the two new high-rise apartment buildings that will face the East River and Manhattan's midtown skyline. Both buildings will be at least 30 floors and will have a total of 925 apartments.

"The apartments will have water views and offer the amenities of a beautiful building," Weinstein said of the Long Island City development that includes a 5-acre river park for fishing, jogging and bicycle riding. A new middle school and high school for 1,100 students will open in the fall.

Apartments in the development will rent about 20 percent lower than market value and will be exempted from rent increases due to capital improvements and new vacancies. Annual rent increases will be lower than the increases set by city's rent-control board, Weinstein said.

For example, a middle-income family of four earning approximately $71,000 would be eligible to rent a two-bedroom apartment that can range from $650 to $3,300 a month.

"The range of people living here could be a low-income family that was displaced from let's say Coney Island to a worker at the Department of Sanitation whose wife is a teacher and who have two kids," Weinstein said.

Maintaining an affordable rent through the years will enable "a family to build wealth and keep them from being rent poor," Weinstein said.

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The buildings are in a flood zone but will have a flood wall and flood gate doors. It will have boilers and electrical infrastructure on the second floor. A backup generator will be on the roof.

The new waterfront neighborhood, which will be built on 30 acres, is part of a $7.5 billion project that will include about 5,000 apartments in total with 96,000 square feet of retail space. The two buildings are part of the project's first phase, which is expected to be completed in 2015.

A lottery will be held to determine eligibility. Applications for the lottery will be open in late 2014.

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