Community Board 11 voted Monday to recommend that the city Board of Standards and Appeals disapprove the plan of a new owner to finish developing four attached brick houses on 47th Avenue off 198th Street in Auburndale, despite a longstanding effort to resolve what residents and board members have regarded for years as a potentially dangerous eyesore.
The site has access on 47th Avenue but uses a 198th Street address due to the configuration of the houses.
Elizabeth Bennett, a lawyer representing the owner, argued that the project should be allowed to proceed based on the building code standards that were in place in 2005, when a previous owner completed a substantial amount of the project, not new standards that were passed in 2008.
Bennett said the legal principle behind the request was the common law doctrine known as vested rights.
But during the board’s discussion period, some members who voted against the request said they were unconvinced that the owner was entitled to vested rights and wanted to see the site held to the newer building code standards.
And even some board members who believed the owner was entitled to be grandfathered in said the project does not provide enough space for fire truck egress.
Bennett argued that no Fire Department objections have been raised so far and that even if they were at a later date, the BSA has approved projects with even less egress.
The board voted 34-4 with 2 abstentions. Its action is only advisory. The application now goes to the Borough President’s office and then to the BSA.
Terry Pouymari, president of the Aubundale Improvement Association, objected to the lack of space allowed for FDNY egress and voiced concerns about drainage onto neighboring property because of the owner’s plans to provide parking space on the lot.
Bennett argued that there is also an extra curb cut on the 47th Street side of the property that could provide room for a truck to turn around. Board member Christine Haider said she was concerned that the extra space in the curb cut area wouldn’t really provide room for a fire truck to turn around because the land slopes in that area.
In other action, the board agreed by unanimous voice vote to request that City Council members sponsor legislation for the re-naming of two street corners after deceased residents, the Rev. John J. Murray and Ben Fried, the father of CB 11 member Jack Fried.
The elder Fried, who died last year at the age of 98, was the owner of Ben’s Hardware store on Bell Boulevard for many years and was very active in the community. The east corner of Bell Boulevard at 43rd Avenue will be renamed after him, if approved.
Union Turnpike at the northeast corner of Bell Boulevard will be renamed after Murray, who died seven years ago and had been a longtime priest at the American Martyrs Church, which stands at that corner.
Bayside resident Michael Shoule, who grew up in the area and attended the church as a child, said that Murray has inspired people in death as he did in life to remain involved in the community. “He was one of those priests you weren’t afraid of,” Shoule said. “For me, when I had a problem, I could go talk to him, no problem.”
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz spoke at the meeting about some of her biggest priorities, including addressing airport noise, rebranding Queens, saving the structures of the old State Pavilion from the 1964-65 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows Park and finding enough space for the additional universal prekindergarten seats being planned by Mayor de Blasio and Gov. Cuomo.
Outgoing CB 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece also told members that the City Council is considering a requirement that community boards provide live webcasts of meetings, which he supports but believes could cause logistical problems.
The board also elected a new chairwoman, Haider, who ran unopposed. She replaces Iannece, who has reached his five-year term limit as chairman. Longtime board member Dennis Novick, the board’s second vice chairman and a member for the past 15 years, said goodbye, as the meeting was his last before moving to Nassau County.
Laura James of Little Neck, who is third vice chairwoman, was elected first vice chairwoman. Ocelia Claro of Bayside was elected second vice chairwoman and Eileen Miller of Bayside was elected third vice chairwoman. The election leaves CB 11 with an all-female leadership slate. They take office in April.