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Queens Chronicle

Building conundrum CB 8 on Nov. 13

Four stories versus 10 is the issue

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Posted: Thursday, November 7, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:34 am, Thu Nov 14, 2013.

A proposal to build a four-story building on Union Turnpike near Parsons Boulevard is looking more appealing to some community members when the alternative is a 10-story pyramid-shaped structure.

But not all agree concerning the site at 158-15 Union Turnpike, which is up for rezoning and will be voted on by Community Board 8 at its next meeting, set for 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13 at the Hillcrest Jewish Center, 183-02 Union Turnpike.

The lot is now vacant. It originally was part of the St. Joseph’s Hospital property and housed trailers used for equipment and office space. The hospital closed in 2004 and is now leased by Cornerstone Medical Arts for use as a detox center.

The trailer site was subdivided off and sold to Sam Zirk, who wants to develop it.

The proposal to rezone asks for a change from R3-2, which allows for low-rise attached houses and small residences, to R5D, which features moderate density and multifamily housing.

According to Zirk’s attorney, Richard Lobel, the area is now partially covered by a C1-2 designation. The proposal would take in the entire area with a C1-3 designation and permit ground-floor commercial use.

At a CB 8 hearing last month, Zoning Committee members voted down the plan 6-1. Therefore, the recommendation at the Nov. 13 meeting will be to reject the plan.

Lobel said at the hearing that the developer wants to erect a four-story residential building with retail on the ground floor. The 39 units are expected to be rentals and plans call for 71 parking spaces in the cellar.

Board members were concerned that the building would put too much pressure on the area’s infrastructure, including sewers, traffic, parking and schools.

Lobel told the Chronicle on Monday that if the proposal is rejected, the developer can erect a 10-story structure as of right. “He [Zirk] doesn’t want to do the pyramid, but if it’s not rezoned, the site will be redeveloped,” the lawyer said.

Jackie Forrestal, corresponding secretary of the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, and her husband, Kevin Forrestal, the civic president and a CB 8 member, oppose the project. She indicated that the 10-story building plan was approved by the Department of Buildings in 2010 and revoked in 2011 because it exceeded the 35-foot height restriction in the area.

Kevin Forrestal also indicated that the developer would need a waiver for a curb cut on Union Turnpike because it’s a violation to enter via the thoroughfare. “You have to use a smaller street [for egress] for new construction, but the adjacent 79th Avenue is too small,” Forrestal said.

Lobel, however, said the 10-story plan was rejected because it contained residential units, which impose a height restriction. But, he pointed out, if the building is used only as a community facility for medical offices, “no such height limit would apply.”

He added that City Planning said it was okay to have traffic using Union Turnpike to enter and leave the property as it’s grandfathered in.

Ken Cohen, president of the Flushing Suburban Civic Association, had opposed the rezoning, but after hearing about the 10-story building he is now more in favor of the smaller structure.

“We still want to talk to the developer and hopefully that will happen before the CB 8 meeting,” Cohen said. “We wouldn’t want such a large pyramid-shaped building.”

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