Market-Rate Residential Comes to Downtown Jamaica: Permits Filed at 90-34 171st Street, Jamaica

90-34 171st Street90-34 171st Street, image via Google Maps

After years of languishing during and after the recession, new development in downtown Jamaica is finally heating up, with a number of new market-rate projects on the way. YIMBY has already covered two apartment buildings planned around Hillside Avenue, and now, via the Department of Buildings, comes a third.

An application was filed yesterday for a new 18-unit building at 90-34 171st Street, just north of Jamaica Avenue, on the edge of what was once Queens’ pre-eminent downtown. The permit was filed by Angelo and Anthony Ng’s Architects Studio (also responsible for downtown Flushing’s nicest new condo building), on behalf of a developer called Green Manor of Woodside (based in – you guessed it! – Woodside).

The total construction floor area of the project, per the building permit, is 18,881 square feet, of which 15,000 square feet will be usable residential space, yielding an average unit size of more than 800 square feet. About a quarter of the 5,000-square foot site will be dedicated to surface parking, with enough room for nine cars – exactly the number of spots that are, unfortunately, required by the zoning code.

The new building at 90-34 171st Street will replace an existing Victorian-style single-family home on a 40-foot-wide lot, which the developer picked up from a longtime owner for $800,000 one month ago.

Along with the other projects underway, 90-34 171st Street heralds the welcome return of market-rate housing construction to downtown Jamaica, for the first time in about half a century. Unfortunately, it also highlights a negative legacy of the Bloomberg-era Department of City Planning: downzoning outer borough neighborhoods that are some of the last in the city where new market-rate development is halfway affordable to the city’s shrinking middle class.

While this site in particular was upzoned – from R6 to R6A, boosting allowed density by more than one-third – it sits just one block away from the section of Jamaica that was downzoned, east of 172nd Street. That part of the neighborhood was zoned R6 since 1961, allowing mid-rises to replace single-family detached homes through to 181st Street. The downzoning, among others in the outer boroughs during Amanda Burden’s tenure as chief city planner, likely contributed to the near complete collapse of New York City’s small building industry.

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