Community Board 7 took favorable positions on a women’s center, a bocce court and the historic Bowne House at its meeting Monday night in Flushing.
CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty pointed out that the board was voting to either recommend or disapprove the plans because “Parks Department projects are major decisions and we want to voice our opinions on them. But it’s only a recommendation.”
The Center for the Women of New York wants to take over a 1905 building at Fort Totten in Bayside and use it as its headquarters. The group, now located in an office at Queens Borough Hall, has raised $1.7 million that will go toward the first phase of work to make the building usable.
Page Cowley, architect for the project, told board members that initial work calls for fixing the plumbing and wiring, restoring the porch and the entire exterior as well as updating the basement and first floor. “We will keep the fireplaces and restore the interior,” Cowley said. “And there will be a charming front porch.”
Ann Jawin, chairwoman and founder of the CWNY, told board members that her group has been in operation for 25 years and offers classes, support groups and other programs. “We are committed to restore the building at Fort Totten and it will be a beautiful conference center,” she said.
The building served as a bachelor officers’ residence when Fort Totten was a military base and has been vacant for 35 years. Cowley said the roof leaked, which did a lot of damage, as did raccoons.
The Parks Department will lease the facility to the women’s group for three years with a six-year renewal plan.
When completed, Phase 1 will include a kitchen, bathroom, computer labs and classrooms on the first floor. It should take about a year to complete after approvals are received from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission and the State Historic Preservation Office.
Phase 2 will cost more than $1 million and will provide a modernized second floor for expanded class space, an elevator and renovated space in the basement for programs.
CB 7 board member Warren Schreiber spoke in favor of the project, saying, “The worst thing you can have is an empty building there. They will be a good neighbor.”
Plans for a new bocce court in Flushing’s Bowne Park were also approved, with the caveat that the board hold a pre-construction hearing on it. Members were unhappy with the one-year length of time the $500,000 project is expected to take and want more details after the bidding process is complete.
“The time is unacceptable,” Kelty said.
The project also call for repairing the old bocce court, landscaping and improvements to the park plaza. Work is expected to start in the fall.
The board also approved the $4 million plan to restore the exterior of the Bowne House in Flushing. The historic house, which dates back to 1661, is slated to get a new roof plus structural work. A visitors’ center will be created out of an expanded garage. The project is expected to go out for bid in the summer.
Two public hearings on zoning variances were also held and both were approved. A Shell gas station at 141-54 Northern Blvd., at Parsons Boulevard, had let its special permit expire and a waiver is required.
Attorney Eric Palatnik indicated that the station has been there since the 1950s and that the latest owner was six months late in reapplying for the permit.
Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian said the Board of Standards and Appeals should send out reminder notices prior to expiration dates and that it could also collect fines from tardy ones. “It’s the board’s pet peeve,” he said.
It was pointed out at the hearing that social service or church food trucks park on the gas station property during the day and distribute free food to day laborers who congregate on Northern Boulevard. Board member Millicent O’Meally said such trucks are not allowed on that site because it is not part of the usage.
The board voted in favor of the waiver, but will request that the agencies stop parking their food trucks there.
The second hearing was for a special permit to allow a karate studio to open at the Bay Terrace Shopping Center. Palatnik, who also represented the owner in the case, said a special permit is needed because there is no use category for karate.
The permit is for 10 years and if granted by the BSA, the martial arts facility will be open from 1 to 9 p.m.