Plans to construct a four-story retail and commercial building in place of Carvel on Grand Avenue—that had been part of a larger tug-of-war between Maspeth residents who wanted to see the area developed commercially and residentially, and those who wanted it to remain as it is—came to an end last week when the developer withdrew his application for the project.
In a letter to Community Board 5, developer Santo D’Angelo, also the owner of Pat’s Restaurant, announced that he was no longer seeking a variance to build 16 apartments and several retail stores at 64-01/07 Grand Avenue.
The withdrawal of the application was confirmed by Vincent Arcuri Jr., chairperson of Community Board 5. D’Angelo could not be reached for comment.
During the long-term struggle over the future of the property, D’Angelo Properties changed the plans several times to mollify those who opposed the project.
The size of the proposed building and the number of apartments was initially even larger than four stories. However, due to concern from the community, the developer scaled back the number of apartments and increased the number of parking spots for tenants. The latest version of the propsal called for 16 parking spots.
The building was to include four studios (approximately $750 per month), nine one-bedroom apartments ($1,000 per month) and three two-bedroom apartments ($1,500 per month) .
At a public hearing last January, attorney Michael Ross said that the only way the project could make a profit would be for the developer to add another floor and four more apartments to what was allowed according to zoning regulations.
The proposed development also called for the triangular-shaped Carvel building to be modernized and expanded to nearly twice its current size.
Carvel has been a fixture in Maspeth since 1945 when it was built as an old-fashioned roadside stand. The shop was enclosed in the 1980s, but due to the expansion of many larger ice cream parlor chains, the business has struggled in recent years.
Because a variance was requested, approval from the Board of Standards and Appeal and input from Community Board 5 were needed.
Those in favor said the development would encourage commercial growth and attract small families as well as young people to the community.
On the other hand, longtime residents saw the project as one more battle in the war against overdevelopment, during which dozens of one- and two-family homes are being replaced by multifamily buildings.
Ultimately, objections that the building would be out-of-character for the neighborhood and negatively impact already stretched city services including sanitation, schools and transportation won out. One of the biggest concerns was that there would be even more traffic along Grand Avenue.
Although D’Angelo cannot build anything larger than what is allowed according to area zoning regulations, there is still the possibility that a much larger building can be constructed on the property than what is there now.
The current R-4 zoning in the area allows for 12 apartments to be built on top of a ground-floor commercial business. It also allows for a row of commercial stores or a three-story doctor’s office on the property, neither of which would require any allocated parking or approval from the community.
Still, the fact that the developer scaled down plans was seen as a victory, for now. “They said they are going to build something as of right,” said Tony Nunziato, vice president of the Maspeth Chamber of Commerce, “and that’s what the community wants, anything less than ridiculous.”