2003-10-01 / Features

Luxury Condo Planned

For Steinway Street
by linda j. wilson
Luxury Condo Planned For Steinway Street by linda j. wilson

Artists rendering of proposed building on Steinway Street.Artists rendering of proposed building on Steinway Street.

A 10-story mixed-use building with 108 one- and two-bedroom apartments and commercial and medical-professional space on the ground floor is set to rise on the site of the former Steinway Bus Company storage yard at the foot of Steinway Street, Gerald Caliendo testified at land use hearings in Borough Hall last Thursday. The street address of the property is 19-73 38th St., Long Island City.

The lot was at one time significantly larger, Caliendo said, but the owner had been forced to sell a portion of it several years ago, leaving a 60,000-square-foot parcel to be occupied by the proposed building. The smaller lot size is actually an advantage, Caliendo said. "In discussions with the Board of Standards and Appeals and the Department of City Planning, we concluded that the smaller lot size makes the building a much better fit in the context of the community."

The building, owned by TTW Realty, LLC, will have 72 one-bedroom apartments and 36 two-bedroom units ranging in size from 775 to 900 square feet. "It will constitute a significant addition to housing stock in the area," Caliendo pointed out. The building is planned to be a condominium and Caliendo said he expects its occupants to be among the many area residents who find the neighborhood conveniently located for an easy commute into Manhattan. A gymnasium for the use of building residents and a parking garage with 195 spaces, 18 more than the 177 required, are also planned.

The ground floor commercial space, amounting to 22,123 square feet, will not be occupied by a "big box" retailer, Caliendo stressed. Also 5,400 square feet of space are planned to be set aside for community use.

Because of the former use of the property, soil conditions will require piles to be driven for the building foundation, Caliendo said. While remediation is planned for the property, no date to begin has been set. Despite the environmental problems attendant on the former use of the property, Community Board 1 recommended approval of the project at its September meeting by 35 votes in favor.

Board 1 was less receptive to an application to extend a term of variance, which was also considered at the board’s September meeting. The application, by Caliendo on behalf of Constantine Plagakis, would allow an existing manufacturing building in a residential district at 35-31 31st St., Long Island City. Board 1 recommended disapproval of the application by 37 votes, with one abstention.

The building was constructed in 1980 and serves as storage and a showroom for restaurant refrigeration equipment, Caliendo said. He told Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz, Alexandra Rosa, chief of staff to Borough President Helen Marshall and Irving Poy, director of planning and development, that Plagakis has sometimes had disassembled equipment spread out on the street in front of the building. The owner several months ago pledged to discontinue this practice, and has done so, Caliendo said.

The city will lose tax income if the variance is not granted and the property is ultimately taken off city tax rolls, Caliendo pointed out. The problem, he said, lies in the fact that Community Board 1 is unwilling to recommend approval of the length of time requested for the variance.

Caliendo noted that Plagakis also owns and uses an adjoining building, which was built before 1961 and is therefore exempt from variance requirements. He also owns a vacant lot next to the buildings, which has sometimes been used for storage of the equipment he sells. This has become an issue with the neighborhood. Plagakis testified that he now sells only new air conditioning equipment and therefore no longer needs to do repairs, eliminating the need for equipment to be spread over the street or the lot.

Jamaica Hospital plans to build a new nursing home on 134th Street between 89th and 91st Avenues in Richmond Hill, representatives of the hospital testified. The new structure will replace the existing 204-bed facility with one accommodating 226 beds. The new nursing home will be built on property now a parking lot owned by the hospital. A special permit is required, as the property is located in a district incorporating both R4 and R6 general residential zoning. The new facility will be 121,000 square feet in area. The new nursing home exterior, in brick and stucco, has been designed to resemble a row of townhouses in order to conform to the styles of housing prevalent in the surrounding neighborhoods. It further fits into its environment because the area has not been inundated with community facilities.

The building interior features a four-story, U-shaped atrium—a configuration dictated by the requirements of the zoning, representatives of the hospital and the architect explained. There will be 80 beds in semi-private and private rooms on each floor and a 20-bed unit for patients who are dependent on ventilating devices. Privacy curtains will screen each bed and all rooms will be handicapped accessible under the provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Efforts are being made to create a more home-like atmosphere while still complying with standards set by the state.

Landscaping on the 134th Street side of the building will include landscaping to screen the building with vegetation. A wall eight feet high will be topped by a wrought iron fence. A parking facility will accommodate 990 staff, patient and visitor cars. The existing nursing home will be used to house administrative operations.

In other business, Eric Palatnick represented Joseph P. Morsellino in an application submitted by Joshua L. Muss, care of Allied enterprises for a special permit to allow a proposed drive-thru at a McDonald’s Restaurant at 160-11 Willets Point Blvd., Whitestone. Palatnick testified that the drive-thru had been disapproved in 1989, but that plans had been revised and now were considered to meet the requirements for such an addition to the facility.

Palatnik testified that fully half of the restaurant’s business is take-out and the drive-thru has been designed to accommodate this increase in volume, including allocating 13 parking spaces cars waiting to go through the drive-thru. Parking on nearby streets will not be affected, Palatnik testified. Guide rails will keep cars in their respective lanes for either the drive-thru or restaurant parking, a guard rail will be installed on the side of the establishment property facing Francis Lewis Boulevard and a handicapped ramp will be moved closer to the restaurant building.

Community Board 9 recommended approval of the application by 35 votes, but imposed conditions on its recommendation. Those conditions included repainting the stripes denoting parking spaces in the parking lot and installing speed bumps and security cameras. Poy requested a letter from the applicant agreeing to the conditions, and Palatnik said one would be forthcoming.

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