$194M project to add low-income units

Tuesday, August 25th 2009, 9:27 AM

THE FORMER Queens Family Court building is undergoing a $194 million transformation that community leaders hope will spur new development in downtown Jamaica.

The library-turned-courthouse is slated to get a third incarnation as 346 units of low-income, affordable and market-rate apartments with an underground parking garage. It is also expected to house retail stores and community organizations.

The project at 89-14 Parsons Blvd., dubbed Moda, is to open next spring.

"What's special is that we agreed to keep the historic facade of the old library," said Drew Spitler, vice president of development at the Dermot Co., which is revamping the building.

The project is also eco-friendly, he said, using recycled and locally sourced building materials.

"The building is designed to be operated using 14% less energy than a standard building," he said.

Moda is "going to provide much-needed affordable housing to Jamaica," Spitler said. "We're hoping it's a catalyst for further development."

The first lotteries for the 56 low-income and 110 middle-income apartments are scheduled for this fall. Another lottery for an additional 69 affordable units will be held at the end of the year.

A family of four making less than $30,720 a year can qualify for a very low-income unit or earn up to $38,440 to be eligible for a low-income apartment. A family of four making up to $134,540 a year can apply for a middle-income apartment.

Market rents for the studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments are expected to be in the $1,600-$2,500 range per month, Spitler said.

Community Board 12 residents are to receive first dibs on half of the low-income and affordable apartments.

That's a boon for the community, said Adjoa Gzifa, chairwoman of Community Board 12, which endorsed the project in 2007.

She expects more businesses and possibly even schools will pop up in downtown Jamaica to provide for the influx of new residents.

"I'm hoping it will revitalize that area," Gzifa said.

Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., agreed.

"We need the housing," he said. "We need it bad."

"It will benefit all of Queens by having more affordable housing in a part of the city that can ... accommodate it easily," he said, referring to location's close proximity to public transportation.

He's also pleased the building will keep its original Italian Renaissance-style facade.

"The way they melded the new and the old will retain and strengthen the historic identity of the community," he said.


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