The march of development along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront is heading further north. Plans for Astoria Cove—a one-million-square-foot, mixed-use development in Queens—has been approved by the Department of City Planning, moving it one crucial step closer to breaking ground. The plan calls for three residential towers, commercial space, a school, and green space on the currently industrial site along the East River.
But it is the Cove’s crescent-shaped shoreline that is its defining feature. “Astoria Cove is really an outdoor room,” says Jay Valgora, principal at STUDIO V Architecture, which is designing the project. “It’s a huge inlet that wraps around you.” And to paint that room green, the firm has recruited landscape architect Ken Smith to transform the space with walkways, rows of trees, flowerbeds, and a rain garden. An “intimately-scaled” street separates the greenery from local restaurants and shops that are tucked into the towers. From the water’s rocky edge, a view opens up to Randall’s Island and the Triborough Bridge. To accommodate for climate change, the entire scheme is set above the current, and future, floodplain.
Valgora is adamant that rising sea levels should not deter development along the East River. He says that a transformed waterfront could provide “the most important series of public spaces” in the city’s future. Beyond creating new housing and open space, the development of the city’s riverside has been good to STUDIO V’s bottom line. The young firm has been commissioned for major projects along the water including the renovation of the Empire Stores warehouse in Dumbo, and the redevelopment of the 8.5-acre Halletts Point site in Queens. The latter sits adjacent to Astoria Cove.
The landscape design extends throughout the site, binding the tall towers along the water to the stepped townhouses further inland. These modern single-family homes are partially clad in horizontal wood slats and connected to each other through a landscaped courtyard. At night, the green space between them is lit with canopied, industrial lamps.
The site is scaled to “step up” as it approaches the shore, with three waterfront towers that will house 1,689 apartments, 259 of which are affordable. When asked about the new, generic glass towers of Jersey City and Williamsburg and Long Island City, Valgora says he is determined to not continue that trend.
At this stage, the towers at Astoria Cove are just massing studies, but they’re said to have “expressive” carved-out corners and tops. From the renderings, that expression is hard to decipher, but all of that could change. “We’re already speaking with the developer to create a whole new language of buildings,” says Valgora. It remains to be seen what that language will be.