‘The aspirational lights are here in Queens’: optimism spreads at affordable housing groundbreaking

While some discussed the difficulties of building affordable housing at any level of government, others marveled at the fact that while Queens once looked to Manhattan for inspiration, residents of the borough nowadays are looking inward.

At least this was the attitude of lawmakers and socially conscious execs at the groundbreaking ceremony for the over 1,100 units of affordable housing in Hunters Point South on Friday morning.

“[Newspaper columnist Jimmy Breslin] always said that Queens was the most romantic borough because we could look out at the aspirational lights of Manhattan, but what’s happened in the last few years is that the aspirational lights are here in Queens,” Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan said. “It’s in Queens where people are getting the chance to build their lives and families.”

About 60 percent of the studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units in the highrise – adding to skyline and Long Island City rise to prominence – will be affordable to lower income brackets. TF Cornerstone and city Department of Housing Preservation and Development, however, could not provide income brackets for the affordable units at this time.

Both Nolan and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney looked at the optimism behind the opportunities of the development as a palate cleanser to the conflict experienced in the community by Amazon’s retreat, taking 25,000 to 40,000 jobs with it.

“Really one of the biggest challenges that we have in government is affordable housing, it’s so, so difficult to build,” Maloney said. “I don’t know if any other project like this in the whole city or the whole country that is setting aside that many units of affordable housing.”

But although it is not quite clear how affordable the units will be yet, Stuart Kaplan, CEO of Selfhelp Community Services which was a partner in the development, approved of the $129 million project.

“Selfhelp learned long ago that a house or an apartment is more than just four walls,” Kaplan said. “This project that we are embarking on today epitomizes that because it recognizes the people, the community and the services that enable people particularly who are low income to live independently with dignity.”

Kaplan, whose organization helps Holocaust survivors and other elderly people age through key services, said the development symbolized the growth of “community equity.”

Residents who call the development home will have some of the most sought after views of the East River and Manhattan, as well as access to the new Hunters Point South Park. The building will be just a stone throw to the NYC Ferry landing.

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