2004-11-18 / Front Page

Rezoning Proposed For Bayside Area

BY JOHN TOSCANO


Public review of a Department of City Planning proposal to preserve the suburban neighborhood character of a 350-block area of Bayside, the largest such initiative ever undertaken in Queens, will begin tonight when a special zoning committee of Community Board 11 reviews the proposal.

The DCP proposal was triggered by complaints from City Councilmember Tony Avella, the Bayside area representative, who said that recent development trends in the predominantly single-family home area have produced new attached and semi-detached buildings replacing one-family detached houses.

Avella, chairman of the council Zoning & Franchises subcommittee, has also spoken out forcefully against development of overscaled new single-family homes referred to as “McMansions,” which are out of character with other homes in a particular area.

In making the announcement of the start of review of the proposed zoning changes, DCP Director Amanda Burden said they were designed to reinforce Bayside’s primarily detached and semi-detached housing patterns and prevent future construction of McMansions and other out-of-character development.

Prevention of construction of new McMansions would also be authorized under legislation pending in Albany sponsored by Assemblymember Brian McLaughlin (D–Flushing) and state Senator Frank Padavan (R–C, Bellerose).

Burden said a new zoning designation—R2A—will be created and mapped for the first time in a portion of Bayside, a new single-family zone that will establish new floor area definitions, require lower building wall heights and provide sloping roof guidelines to ensure that new homes will more closely complement the scale of existing homes on typical single-family plots.

“Not only are we proposing lower density contextual zoning to prevent multi-family homes from replacing the area’s primarily one- and two-family character, we are also ensuring the future single-family homes complement the character of their neighbors’ [homes].

“This is entirely in keeping with the Bloomberg [mayoral] administration’s commitment to preserve the special qualities that have made the city’s lower-density suburban style neighborhoods so attractive.”

Avella (D–Bayside) commented: “The Bayside rezoning package is a huge step forward in addressing overdevelopment in Bayside. I am pleased to have jump started the process. The Bloomberg administration and the Department of City Planning are to be commended for working expeditiously to develop this initiative. It is our combined hope that much of what we do in Bayside can be applied to other residential neighborhoods.”

The area to be rezoned in Board 11 borders Little Neck Bay and is bounded by 24th, 26th and 34th Avenues on the north, the Cross Island Parkway to the east, Francis Lewis Boulevard, the Clearview Expressway and 207th Street to the west, and 48th Avenue and the Long Island Expressway to the south, the DCP announcement said.

“We broke Community Board 11 into three zones--South Bayside, North and Central,” Jerry Iannece, Board 11 chairman, explained.”The R2A proposal focuses only on Bayside, and it’s too important an issue to rush on.” Iannece added that because the zoning issue is a controversial one it requires extensive review and thought. A public hearing on it will be held at the board’s January 3 meeting.

“it’s a two-fold problem,” Iannece continued. An oversized building is probably contrary to the character of an established neighborhood, and such structures can be subject to illegal uses. “Northeast Queens tends to be somewhat affluent, so illegal conversions are not a problem, but I wish they’d take out the lowest floor exemption,” Iannece said. The lowest floor exemption allows a builder or developer to leave space in addition to a garage or boiler room that is often used for living space, contrary to zoning regulations.

According to the DCP, the resulting zoning proposal’s objective is to:

•Preserve neighborhood character by reducing the permitted density on 118 neighborhood blocks through the designation of contextual (R1-2, R3A, R3X, R3-1, and R4B) zones that require new construction to more closely match the existing building stock. These contextual districts would replace the general residence districts that permitted a variety of building types. and

•Create a new contextual zoning designation—R2A—that will limit floor area exemptions for garage use to 300 or 500 square feet, rather than the entire ground floor. This 220-block zone, which was not delineated by DCP, will provide height limits and guidelines for roofs to slope inward from the sides and ends of every house in order to ensure that new single-family houses will be more in keeping with their surrounding contexts.

Iannece said he is not sure if the zoning changes will be the answer to the situation. “You can’t legislate taste,” he said. “And the R2 zoning is very restrictive as it is. “We’ve got to do this right, and we can’t be political. Whether we do it right or wrong, we won’t see the effects for the next four or five years and they’ll be here for a long time after that. I’ve talked to experts and they tell me my approach is correct. We have to think carefully about what we’re doing.”

The community board now has 60 days to review the proposal, after which it will go to the Borough President, City Planning Commission and the City Council as part of the city Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP). More details on the ULURP timeline are available on the DCP Web site.

Linda J. Wilson contributed to this article.

Pictured on front page Assemblymember Tony Avella with Queens Director of City Planning, John Young.

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