Thursday, August 28, 2008

Residents Fighting 20-Story Apartment and Hotel Proposal

By Conor Greene

KEW GARDENS – Residents are fighting a proposal to build a 20-story hotel and apartment building near Queens Boulevard, but face an uphill battle since the so-called “monstrosity” is allowed under the current zoning.

Area residents and Councilman Tony Avella held a protest last Thursday at the construction site on 82nd Avenue to call attention to the negative impact they say the project will have on the area. The site is being developed by the owners of the Pasta Lovers Trattoria, and the building is slated to sit on land behind the business previously used for restaurant parking.

The residents, many of who live in the adjacent 134-unit Hampton House apartment building on 82nd Street, first learned of the project when a construction crew began digging a huge hole on the property on June 30, according to resident Natalie Dauphin. After they filed complaints with the city Department of Buildings, a stop work order and several violations were issued in July.

According to the DOB, the stop work order was issued on July 18 because the developer did not have a copy of the approved plans on site and due to inadequate guardrails next to the excavation. A permit was issued on June 27 for a mixed use residential and commercial building containing 20 stories and a cellar, according to the department.

The project will include 27 parking spaces and an office in the cellar, 17 parking spaces, retail and offices space on the ground level, a community facility and ambulatory care center on the second floor and hotel rooms and apartments in the remaining space, according to the residents.

Dauphin, who has helped organize the fight against the proposal, accused the developer of having a “lack of concern for our safety” and said residents “are afraid of having cranes in this neighborhood looming over these apartment buildings.” She is also “absolutely terrified” that the construction is damaging the foundation of the six-story Hampton House, which is 50 years old.

Avella (D-Bayside) said the area needs to be rezoned to prevent this type of out of character development. He the “neighborhood cannot handle the impact” of the project, including increased traffic and pollution. “We’re not going to give up until we get satisfaction with this project,” he said.

Janice Dillman, an 18-year resident of Hampton House, said that after the project’s plans were rejected three times, “all of a sudden it was approved” and digging began on the property, which was still being used as a parking lot for the restaurant. “They didn’t have fences up and still had people parking,” she said. “I just don’t think there is any concern for us.”

Several other community leaders were at last week’s rally, including a representative from Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn’s office and Mel Gagarin, a candidate to succeed Melinda Katz as the 29th District’s representative on City Council. Katz was in Denver this week and did not respond to a message left with her spokeswoman seeking comment on the proposal.

“We stand united today to draw a line in the sand, to let the owner of Pasta Lovers know, and to let developers across this city know, that our communities will not stand idly by while our neighborhoods are lost block by block,” said Gagarin.

“This will destroy what is supposed to be a great place to live,” said Dauphin.

Top: Councilman Tony Avella and residents Natalie Dauphin and Mel Gagarin speak at last week’s rally.
Right: Residents are concerned that the 20-story building will tower over their six-story building behind the construction site.

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