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Queens Chronicle

CB7 votes against mixed-use rezoning

Dismay over hurried process and inability to hold owners accountable#north4

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Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 11:46 am, Thu Dec 6, 2012.

Community Board 7 unanimously voted on Monday against a proposed rezoning that would convert an industrial chunk of Flushing Meadows East into a mixed-use retail and residential area, citing a limited ability to know who would build what on the land and when.

“How do we know what’s going to be built?” asked CB7 Land Use Committee Chairman Chuck Apelian during the board’s discussion.

The area of the proposed rezoning is between Avery and Fowler avenues, bounded by Flushing Meadows Corona Park to the west and College Point Boulevard to the east. It is currently home to two live poultry shops, a BP gas station, an iron works shop, two furniture stores, a lighting store and one residence.

The rezoning calls for a C2-6A zone, which allows for commercial use on the first floor with residential units above, limited by a height restriction of 80 feet.

The block’s current M1-1 and M1-2 manufacturing zones do not match the changing face of an area that includes relatively new commercial/residential hybrids such as Sky View Parc, said Pat Jones, an attorney for the applicants, during his presentation before the board.

“Our block is subject to a zone that doesn’t work too well,” he said. “The development of the block has not filled its zoning potential.”

The board’s Land Use Committee in a meeting held last week unanimously voted against the rezoning, 7-0, due to the uncertainty of what exactly would be built as time passes and land potentially changes hands. Promises made to the CB to build additional parking, for instance, would not carry any weight if not in writing. Stipulations, deed restrictions and past remedies were not an option, Apelian said.

The board has voted to rezone 1,500 blocks over the last eight years, Jones said, with many facing similar circumstances.

The distinction, Apelian noted, is the separate property owners making up the entire block, each with a separate timeline, economic situation and plan, with no uniformity over what will be built and when.

“It just doesn’t lend itself to that litmus test,” he said.

The proposed rezoning has been in the works for at least five years, according to Apelian, who went on to express exasperation at the Department of City Planning’s insistence the proposal be brought before the board at a time when it had enough on its plate.

“I begged City Planning not to bring this to the board,” he said. “More work was put on this board when it was already overburdened as it is with both public and private projects.”

The block consists of nine individual owners, five of whom applied for the rezoning. Together, the group owns 85 percent of the land, according to Jones.

The small matter of what the four remaining landowners on the block felt about the rezoning produced a good deal of confusion.

The BP gas station had no intention of leaving or utilizing the new zone, should it pass, Jones said.

Others, such as Joe Oro, who with his mother owns and occupies the lone residence on the block, simply had no clue the rezoning of his property was even in the works. CB7 Chairman Eugene Kelty left a letter informing the residents of the community board’s vote. Otherwise, he would not have known.

Oro said he received offers to buy out the land but has demurred.

“They’ve come to us offering well below the actual value,” he said, adding nobody making an offer told him a rezoning was in the works.

Oro has no issues with changing the makeup of the area surrounding his home.

“I’m all for beautifying the area and all that,” he said.

No rules mandate all landowners must be made aware of a proposed rezoning of their property if it is a private application. The City Planning Department encourages applicants to inform all those affected.

The community board’s vote, part of the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, does not put the brakes on the private application for rezoning. It must now continue before the Borough Board and finally the City Council for a vote.

Welcome to the discussion.