Community Board 5 got a bit testy last Wednesday over a proposed zoning change to allow the construction of two new residential buildings in Ridgewood.
An empty lot owned by 176 Woodward Avenue LLC, bordered by Starr Street and Woodward, Flushing and Onderdonk avenues adjacent to the Linden Hill Cemetery, is the subject of an application from the owner to the Planning Commission, proposing that the area be rezoned from an M1-1 manufacturing district to R5B and R6B residential districts.
Rockland County-based Aufgang Architects has designed a three- to four-story, 88-unit mixed-use building— made up of 80,198 square feet of residential space, 6,707 square feet of retail space and 3,115 square feet of community space— for the lot.
A four story, eight-dwelling building is planned for the intersection of Woodward Avenue and Starr Street as well.
The location is within the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone, a designation designed to protect manufacturing.
Aufgang project architect Thomas Loftus and attorney Steve Sinacori of the Ackerman Law Firm, the group representing the owner, described the project to the board as something that will “beautify the block that it’s on.”
“At this particular location, there has been significant problems with dumping of debris. There’s been a lot of criminal activity over the years,” Sinacori said. “It’s really a cleaning up of the area and creating something that will beautify the area.”
“We really wanted to focus on the existing urban fabric of the neighborhood and we reflected that with the rhythm of the different materials we’re showing on the building,” Loftus added about the proposed building’s design. “It was very important for us to create a residential rhythm that reflected some of the townhouses and row houses in the neighborhood.”
According to the application, the L-shaped R5B district would be bounded partly by Woodward and Flushing avenues, but not reach their intersections, and end 100 feet northeast of Onderdonk Avenue and 95 feet northwest of Troutman Street.
The R6B district would start 95 feet northwest of Troutman Street and run down to Starr Street and, between them only, stretch 100 feet northeast of Woodward Avenue.
The plan for the structure includes 118 underground parking spaces, a polished stone exterior to combat graffiti and even a dog walk on the roof.
The units would range from one to three bedrooms and the monthly rent would range between $1,000 and $1,800.
CB 5’s Land Use Committee will discuss the rezoning plan at its April 7th meeting and present its recommendation to the full board before CB 5 votes on April 9.
City Planning will take the board’s vote into account before making the official decision on rezoning at a later date.
Several speakers during last Wednesday’s public hearing, such as Bushwick resident Brigette Blood, were not enthused by the plan.
With a sister building project, also designed by Aufgang, being planned for the other side of the Queens-Brooklyn border, Blood warned the board of what the change of zoning could mean for the area’s future.
“This is your decision, Ridgewood,” Blood said. “Do not take the salesman’s view that this land is vacant, dirty and scary. Ridgewood deserves a modified proposal with binding commitments from the developer that mitigates actual impact and is responsive to Ridgewood’s needs.”
In regards to the building, Sara Feldman of Fresh Pond Road disagreed with Loftus’ statement that the new structure would fit in with the surrounding neighborhood.
“I think it’s not really appropriate,” Feldman said. “It doesn’t really go with the architecture around here, the arched houses and everything.”
Ultimately, residents in favor of both the zoning change and the building outnumbered Blood and Feldman.
Seneca Street resident Craig Montalbano looks forward to the development, saying that anyone who believes the area should be zoned for manufacturing use is kidding themselves.
“The community had to endure years of vacant warehouses, vacant land, storage yards and block after block of sites that landlords tried to get manufacturing into,” Montalbano said. “We’re fooling ourselves for taking a lot used for storage and thinking that it could be converted to manufacturing use when landlords have blocks and blocks of land they could do nothing with.
“If [the units] aren’t affordable for this neighborhood, I don’t know what is,” he added. “The community needs housing and it needs jobs. I don’t know where everyone has been, but ... you’re going to have short-term jobs for construction and long-term jobs for employment.”
Troutman Street resident Joe Pergulese agreed with Montalbano, saying the building would help beautify an area that people sometimes fear walking through at dusk or later.
“I support the zoning [change] because it will give a good impact to the community,” Pergulese said. “I welcome this project. I have been waiting 19 years for this development to happen.”
The first public mention of the project came at a Citizens for a Better Ridgewood meeting last March where residents expressed their interest in the project. However, supporters of the city’s IBZ network were upset by the plan, as some claimed City Planning’s commitment to business zones isn’t nearly as strong as it should be.
The plot for the proposed structure was removed from City Planning’s IBZ map last September, with the reason being that the area is mainly residential and that IBZ’s are living entities subject to change as neighborhoods evolve.