Thursday, April 23, 2009

Public Review of Downzoning Begins

The formal public review of the long-awaited rezoning of 300 blocks in Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale began on Tuesday, meaning it could be approved by the fall.

The formal Uniform Land Use Review Process for the proposal began Monday, which gives Community Board 5 60 days to review it. It then goes to Borough President Helen Marshall, the City Planning Commission and finally to the City Council to be approved.

The proposed area to be rezoned is bounded by the Long Island Expressway, Woodhaven Boulevard, Forest Park, Mount Carmel Cemetery, Cypress Hills Cemetery, Fresh Pond Road and 59th Street and is adjacent to three rezonings completed in 2006. Much of the zoning within the area has remained unchanged since 1961 and allows a range of uses and housing types that can be inconsistent with the prevailing lower density character, according to the Department of City Planning.

“Since 2002, the Bloomberg Administration has rezoned 4,000 blocks in Queens to create a sustainable blueprint for the future, protecting neighborhood character and channeling development away from auto-dependent neighborhoods,” said City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden. She said that this downzoning effort is one of the largest rezonings to date in Queens and will protect “three of Queens’ most attractive neighborhoods.”

The rezoning is intended to serve several purposes, including protecting the neighborhoods’ one-and-two family homes by implementing zoning districts that “ensure that new developments match the existing scale and density of surrounding houses.” It will also eliminate infill provisions, which allows for development at a higher density than would otherwise be allowed.

In addition, it provides “modest housing opportunities along Woodhaven Boulevard and Myrtle Avenue” provided that it is consistent with the three-and-four-story mixed-use buildings along those strips. Finally, it will update commercial overlays to reflect the current land uses and “support retail continuity” along shopping areas on Cooper, Myrtle, Flushing, Grand and Metropolitan avenues and Woodhaven Boulevard. Commercial overlays would be eliminated or reduced to prevent commercial intrusion on residential blocks.

“After three years, the Department of City Planning has finally moved forward with the rezoning…” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley in a statement. Since day one in office, I have made rezoning a priority because it is necessary for limiting overdevelopment and to protect the character of our community. I will continue [to push the DCP] and work with the Community Board and Borough President to ensure the rezoning plan is implemented as soon as possible.”

The effort began more than three years ago, when volunteers from the Juniper Park Civic Association and other residents went door-to-door collecting information about the type of development that currently exists. However, the effort then languished, leaving residents frustrated as they watched small modest homes being torn down and replaced by multi-family units.

“It should have started at least two years ago. Since then, almost every block in our neighborhood has been victimized by overdevelopment,” said Robert Holden, president of the JPCA.

Community Board 5 will hold its public hearing on the proposal at a meeting on Monday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Christ the King High School.

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