Thursday, October 16, 2008

Austin Street Rezoning on Board Agenda

City Planning Presentation on Wednesday

By Conor Greene

Residents are urged to attend the upcoming meeting of Community Board 6 to learn more about the proposed rezoning of Austin Street and Queens Boulevard.

The Department of City Planning is scheduled to present its plan for a new Forest Hills District to the board at its meeting next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Kew Gardens Community Center.

Under the plan buildings on the south side of Austin Street would be limited to three stories, or about 40 feet. On the north side, which is closer to Queens Boulevard, building height would be limited to six stories, or about 70 feet.

The changes are aimed at protecting the western end of Austin Street, near Yellowstone Boulevard, from out of character development. The plan - devised over the past two years by the city and local officials - would also limit buildings along Queens Boulevard to 150 feet in height.

The rezoning area is generally bounded by Queens Boulevard to the north, the Long Island Railroad tracks to the south, Ascan Avenue to the east and Yellowstone Boulevard to the west.

The current zoning has been in place since 1961. According to the Department of City Planning, the area was dominated by auto-related uses at the time that have since been replaced with successful retail businesses and restaurants.

“This has transformed the area from a secondary shopping area to a vibrant commercial hub serving both local residents of Forest Hills and neighboring communities, which much of the activity concentrated along 71st Avenue and Austin Street,” the DCP wrote on a project description available online.

In a statement released by the DCP, its commissioner, Amanda Burden, said that Councilwoman Melinda Katz has worked with her agency on “this fine-grained rezoning proposal” over the past few years.

“The proposed zoning will provide much needed controls on new building form and scale to protect and strengthen the Austin Street retail corridor and more appropriately frame and reinforce development patterns on Queens Boulevard," said Burden in a statement.

Overall, the rezoning seeks to “provide predictable streetwalls and heights that reinforce established contexts, provide a transition in scale and density from south (Austin Street) to north (Queens Boulevard) [and] promote a ground floor commercial/retail development along Austin Street and Queens Boulevard.”

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