2005-04-20 / Front Page

Council Approves Major Bayside Rezoning

By John Toscano

Councilmember Tony Avella at left,  announcing  R2A designation with John Young from City Planning.Councilmember Tony Avella at left, announcing R2A designation with John Young from City Planning. A rezoning proposal covering 380 blocks in Bayside and designed to make one of the borough’s largest residential areas more accurately reflect the existing low-density housing stock, passed the City Council last week and became law.

Councilmember Tony Avella, who spearheaded the proposal about a year ago and worked closely with the Bloomberg Mayoral Administration and the Department of City Planning in conceiving the plan, declared after the vote: “This is an historic step in preserving the quality of life in low-density neighborhoods and could not have been accomplished without the direct support of Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg and the Department of City Planning.”

The new zoning is designed to eliminate the proliferation of so-called “McMansions,” the huge out-of-scale, multistory, new or rebuilt residences that dwarf adjacent one-family homes.

A new zoning category, R2A, has been created to eliminate all building and zoning code loopholes that developers have used to get the authority to build McMansions.

The passage of the Bayside rezoning will have an impact throughout the city in neighborhoods similar to Northeast Queens.

“Now that the R2A zoning category has been approved, I fully expect many of the other one-family home districts to request that their neighborhoods be zoned under this category,” Avella said.

In fact, such a movement is expected to get a push from Bloomberg, who has already initiated efforts to protect one-family, low-profile home areas.

Over the past several years, as McMansions began to appear with greater frequency in Bayside, Douglaston and Whitestone, Avella started to formulate a strategy to stop the building trend.

Soon after he was elected and took his seat in the council, Avella jump started the entire process by hiring an independent urban planner, Paul Graziano, to conduct a zoning study of the entire 19th Council District. That study provided the basis for rezoning applications in Bayside, College Point and Whitestone, which were filed early last summer.

At the time, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden stated in a letter to Avella: “As you are undoubtedly aware from our prior discussions, I am in agreement with you that the sooner the studies and rezoning can be completed, the more advantageous to the city it will be to conserve the essential qualities that make these communities enduring places to live, work and raise a family.”

Meanwhile, the College Point and Whitestone rezoning proposals are moving ahead steadily.

Apart from the effort to get new rezoning in place, Avella has also carried on a campaign to get the city Buildings Department to crack down on builders who make a practice of amending or ignoring building plans. Avella has pushed Buildings not only to issue summonses for violations but to follow up to make sure that the violations are obeyed and building plans are carried out properly.

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