The public review process for a 229-block rezoning in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill that many residents say will help to prevent overcrowding has officially begun, city Planning Commisssioner Amanda Burden said this week.
The proposed rezoning seeks to keep the one- and two-family homes in residential areas and prevent the building of more of the multi-family units that have sprung up in recent years, while funneling higher-density housing and commercial development to main business corridors, like Jamaica and Atlantic avenues, city officials said.
The plan was crafted in response to concerns raised by Community Board 9, area civic organizations and elected officials.
“The Woodhaven and Richmond Hill neighborhoods in Queens are characterized by very appealing one- and two-family wood-frame homes built in a variety of traditional styles,” Burden said in a prepared statement. “The neighborhoods have seen their populations grow in recent years, but due to antiquated zoning, they are experiencing growth in the wrong places.”
Burden, as well as a number of legislators and other civic leaders, lamented the fact that the neighborhood’s old homes, including many of the prevalent Queen Anne Victorians, have been torn down and replaced with structures that they said do not fit in with the rest of the community.
“Numerous homes have been demolished and replaced with out-of-character buildings, while major corridors that have access to transit and can accommodate growth have not seen development opportunities,” Burden said.
The rezoning area is generally bounded by Park Lane to the north, 103rd Avenue to the south, Eldert Lane to the west, and the Van Wyck Expressway to the east.
Community Board 9 now has 60 days to review the proposal, during which time it will hold at least one hearing on the plan, after which the plan will go to the borough president and the city Planning Commission for further assessment. Ultimately, the City Council will vote on the proposal.
Planning officials and legislators have noted that the zoning in the area has not changed since 1961 and say it no longer reflects the community’s needs.
For example, portions of Liberty Avenue would be zoned R6A instead of the current R5. The shift would change the maximum building height from 40 to 70 feet, permitting businesses to expand.
In the more residential areas, a downzoning would occur to limit most homes to one or two stories.
All of the Council members representing the area have thrown their support behind the proposal, including Councilmen Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), and Councilwomen Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills).
“This proposal will preserve the residential character of these communities and allow for modest growth along our major shopping corridors, Jamaica and Atlantic avenues,” Ulrich said.
But Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Corporation, is not in favor of the downzoning because, he said, it does not address the needs of a rapidly growing community. For example, Mahadeo said, many large families wish to live together in the same house.
He did say that he supports funneling more growth to places like Atlantic Avenue.
Still, most of those speaking out about the rezoning seem generally in favor of it.
“By stabilizing the zoning that encompasses single- and two-family homes, the current practice of tearing these homes down is decentivized, thus stabilizing and preserving the vitality and balance of these communities,” Community Board 9 Chairwoman Andrea Crawford said.