Briarwood residents moved ever closer last week to seeing their rapidly growing neighborhood rezoned to protect its lower-density housing stock and stem the tide of oversized, out-of-character development.
Borough President Helen Marshall last Friday signed off on a long-awaited proposal to rezone 39 blocks of Briarwood to ensure that any new construction matches the prevailing one- and two-family houses and existing multifamily apartments.
Last rezoned in 1996, the Central Queens enclave is currently a mishmash of low- and high-density housing, with properties ranging from 20-foot-wide rowhouses to towering condos and apartment complexes.
Over the past decade, however, population growth has fueled increasing pressure to build higher-density, multifamily structures that appear grossly out character alongside smaller properties, critics say.
The Department of City Planning’s latest proposal would preserve the “hodgepodge” nature of the existing real estate, but prevent further development of the multistory complexes that, residents say, are ruining the character of their neighborhood.
“This effort,” Marshall said, “will go a long way in helping to maintain the … low density character of these areas.”
The rezoning area is bounded on the east by Parsons Boulevard; on the west by Queens Boulevard and the Van Wyck Expressway; on the north by the Grand Central Parkway; and on the south by Hillside Avenue. Within this area, city planners say are taking a more “contextualized” approach to modifying the zoning — on a block-by-block basis, switching from the current residential districts (R3A, R4, R4-1 and R6A) to zones that better fits the existing building types and occupancies (R3X, R4, R4A, R4B, R4-1 and R5D).
“Our fine-grained rezoning provides (an) update to zoning changes implemented in 1996 to reinforce the distinctly varied built character of the Briarwood neighborhood that its residents prize,” said New York City Planning Director Amanda Burden.
In a statement, Marshall hailed the proposal as the product of close collaboration between city planners and local activists — many of whom began measuring housing density, lot widths and property heights years ago in preparation for the changes.
Approved in November by Community Board 8 before making its way to the borough president’s desk, the proposal will now go to the City Planning Commission, then to the City Council for further review. Under the standard land use review process, the mayor will then decide whether to green light the proposal sometime next year.