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Queens Chronicle

CB 8 panel says no to Union Tpke. proposal

Board worried about parking, traffic

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Posted: Thursday, October 24, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:46 am, Thu Oct 31, 2013.

A Community Board 8 committee rejected a proposed rezoning of Union Turnpike, which would allow a four-story building for commercial and residential use on a lot bounded by Parsons Boulevard and 79th Avenue, with a vote of 6-1 at a public hearing on Tuesday evening at Hillside Manor.

The board raised concerns about parking and traffic on Union Turnpike, as well as sewage, schools and the shadows that would be cast by the building, which would house a ground floor for commercial use and three floors composed of 39 residential units in total. In the basement there would be 71 parking spaces.

“We keep putting more and more people in areas designed for far fewer people,” Kevin Forrestal, board member and president of Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, said. “The infrastructure doesn’t support enough people.”

According to Richard Lobel, lawyer for the developer, Zirk Union Tpke, LLC, the building would at least house a KFC on one side of the first floor and the Cornerstone diner on the other. The heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system would be on the roof, and windows would be soundproof because of the noise from Union Turnpike.

There is no definitive layout of the residential units, but Lobel and his client said they would most likely be rentals and sell at market rate.

“If I had to guess, a little more one bedrooms because that’s what the market wants, and a little less two bedrooms and three bedrooms,” the developer said.

The lot where the building would be developed is currently vacant, and has a C1-2 district, a commercial overlay that allows mixed-use development within a R3-2 district, an area typically with two-story attached or detached one- or two-family homes. The rezoning would eliminate the overlay and establish a R5D district, primarily for multi-family housing, with another commercial overlay. Under R5D zones, there is a 40-foot maximum limit for building height, which the building would meet.

A major concern of the board was the proposed placement of a curb cut on Union, which would give access to the building’s entrance and exit. Board members said the placement did not correspond with regulations, and that traffic would move to 79th Avenue, a narrow street intended for residents.

Jackie Forrestal, the corresponding secretary for the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association who spoke during the public session, said the rezoning would be “out of character.”

Prior to the presentation, Lobel said his office received 20 letters of consent from local residents supporting the project. But Kenneth Cohen, who lives in the neighborhood and spoke on behalf of the Flushing Suburban Civic Association, said that many people from the area did not hear about the project. Because there was no “adequate communication with neighbors,” he did not approve of the proposal.

“When you change the zoning in a community, you’re changing its footprint forever,” he said.

Tuesday’s hearing was the first of many meetings for the proposal under the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. The proposal will be discussed and voted on again at the general meeting on Nov. 13, and then it will move on to the borough president, the Department of City Planning and finally the City Council, where it will have its final decision.

Lobel said he and his team will be looking for answers to the questions and concerns the board raised at the public hearing, such as the curb cut and precise square footage of the proposed lot.

“We will take into account what was said here and come up with the appropriate response,” Lobel said.

According to Kevin Forrestal, there is a need for housing but also a need for a more supportive infrastructure, as there is currently “not enough space,” he said.

“We need a comprehensive plan to address both,” Forrestal said. “I have no problem to encourage the growth if you can do it properly.”

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