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Queens Chronicle

ICCC plan prompts safety concerns

Permits require access to a street; group suggests Fineson Center drive

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Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 10:51 am, Thu May 31, 2012.

The Indian Cultural and Community Center’s plan to build on the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center campus has hit another snag, with the group needing access to a mapped city street in order to move ahead.

“This property does not have that access. It is landlocked, so to speak,” Jordan Most, the zoning lawyer for the ICCC, said at the Community Board 13 meeting on Monday.

The ICCC owns approximately 4.5 acres at Creedmoor, located at 79-25 Winchester Blvd., in Queens Village, near the Bellerose border. The southern parcel would be used to house a community center and residential units, and is an as-of-right development.

The northern parcel is to be the location of two nine-story apartment towers and for that the group needs a Board of Standards and Appeals variance because the apartments would be located in a commercial zone which prohibits residential use. It was voted down by CB 13 in October 2011.

Most said the ICCC was granted access to a roadway near the Bernard Fineson Developmental Center in the deed for the southern parcel. The group wants to use the easement to satisfy the street access requirement, which is necessary in order to get any Department of Buildings permit, Most said.

The 82nd Avenue emergency access point on the east side of Creedmoor is already being used, in part, by the Bernard Fineson Developmental Center, which provides housing for adults with disabilities. The ICCC’s idea raised safety questions among board members like Jerry Wind, president of the Bellerose-Hillside Avenue Civic Association.

He said the director at the Fineson Center told him the easement was on state-owned land and that management will not permit the ICCC to use any of the space because it has patients who are heavily medicated and walk around the property.

“It could endanger their lives,” Wind said, adding, “I think that the community board has a responsibility to protect those people.”

The acting associate commissioner for the Fineson Center said he could not provide any information about the proposed access area by press time.

Tanya Cruz, CB 13’s first vice chairwoman, said the body should get a statement in writing from the Fineson Center regarding its position and any concerns management may have.

In the past, the ICCC had been in discussions to purchase an additional parcel that would have had access to Union Turnpike, which would have satisfied the street requirement, but that land is no longer available, Most said.

The lawyer added that the regulation is often waived as long as a developer can show that it has alternate access to a property over other roadways or easements that the Fire Department believes are adequate.

“The FDNY is not the sole agency that is involved in the potential development of this location,” Jim Long, a spokesman for the FDNY said in an email. “Once all parties have a chanceto weigh in, the information will be shared with the architect and developersof the project.”

When the ICCC purchased the parcels from the state in 2008, the deed included three separate easements to provide access to those properties, Most said — one is across roadways that run through the Creedmoor street grid, another is for vehicles and the third for pedestrians that provides access over land to Union Turnpike.

“The Creedmoor street grid and the 82nd Avenue easements form the basis for the application with the BSA as to how we satisfy adequate Fire Department access requirements,” Most said. “I would characterize the application more as an administrative type of application as opposed to a variance, which is somewhat more of a discretionary application.”

Controversy has plagued the ICCC’s plan, with the state attorney general and inspector general investigating the deal to determine if there was any inappropriate or criminal behavior on the part of the group and both current and former elected officials.

CB 13 could not vote on the proposal because it had not yet received a recommendation from its Land Use Committee, but even if it had, several members said the application should not even be considered until the results of the two state probes into the land deal are revealed.

“Given the fact that we have never gotten closure on any investigations that are taking place within the state, I feel that we are not in a position to vote either way on anything regarding this,” said board member Charlie Farruggia. “What’s the sense in voting on something that’s maybe illegal and overturned anyhow? It’s silly.”

Welcome to the discussion.