2003-12-10 / Features

Mayor’s Task Force Wants More Open Space In New Home Areas

by john toscano


The new zoning measure was partially and preliminarily approved by the Land Use Committee headed by Councilmember Melinda Katz (D–Forest Hills) last week.The new zoning measure was partially and preliminarily approved by the Land Use Committee headed by Councilmember Melinda Katz (D–Forest Hills) last week.

by john toscano

Queens city councilmembers will probably cast all 14 of their votes in favor of a Staten Island Zoning change when it comes before them because it enhances residential area quality and solves a longstanding problem in their own borough.

At the moment only three Queens lawmakers have expressed outspoken support of the Staten Island zoning revision because they want it adapted to their own borough, which has the largest number of homeowners in the city.

The new zoning measure was partially and preliminarily approved by the Land Use Committee headed by Councilmember Melinda Katz (D–Forest Hills) last week.

The bill is designed to prevent larger homes from being built on small lots; a practice which appears to be squeezing the bigger homes into small spaces.

The proposal came from a Staten Island special task force which had been appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to investigate ways to control development on the small island.

The task force had recommended that new one-family homes should have two onsite parking spaces rather than one, and new two-family homes should have three parking spaces instead of two. This would decrease on-street parking.

Other task force recommendations call for larger open space requirements around new houses, attics, incorporated into home designs to encourage traditional pitched rooflines and a ban on steeply pitched driveways.

Similar changes are already being advocated in College Point and also in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Throggs Neck in The Bronx. City Planning Commission Chairwoman Amanda Burden said.

Commenting on the mayor’s actions regarding Staten Island, Northeast Queens Councilmember Tony Avella (D) commented, I’m glad the mayor’s doing this. Residential communities throughout the city are being destroyed literally every single day by overdevelopment."

One reason for the trend, he said, was the 1961 zoning regulation which explicitly allowed big multiple dwellings to replace smaller homes.

Shortly after the mayor created the Staten Island Task Force, Avella engaged a consultant to perform an urban planning study in his council district.

He also reported he had received news that some 600 of his constituents had written to the Planning Commission urging zoning changes.

Councilmember Leroy Comrie (D–St. Albans) said there was also sentiment for zoning change in his southeast Queens district.

"Most communities in my district want to get some kind of consistency and protection for the history of their neighborhoods and keep some continuity," Comrie said.

Starting with the zoning changes being pushed by the mayor, the Department of Buildings plans to bulk up its zoning code enforcement activities, partly by restricting issuance of temporary certificates of occupancy, or COs. The temporary COs, Buildings Department officials said, can facilitate end runs around the zoning code.

However this move was criticized by Allen Cappelli, a consultant to private home builders.

The change would make the DOB function worse, said Cappelli, a spokesman for the Building Association of New York. He said that with restricted temporary COs, consumers would pay more for houses, lose mortgage commitments and be denied the opportunity to move into new homes before Christmas.

However, he endorsed the task force recommendations.


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