The City Council approved the first rezoning of more than 200 blocks in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill in over half a century on July 25.
The council vote was the final step in the rezoning process which began over two years ago.
The Department of City Planning’s rezoning proposal covers 229 blocks in Woodhaven, mainly north of Jamaica Avenue, but also a section of Woodhaven between Jamaica and Atlantic avenues around Woodhaven Boulevard. In Richmond Hill, it includes the area east of Richmond Hill High School and nearly every property between Atlantic and 103rd avenues from 102nd Street to the Van Wyck Expressway. A small section of Ozone Park is also included in the rezoned section, which is entirely located within the jurisdiction of Community Board 9.
City Planning proposed the rezoning, the first in the area since 1961, because of complaints from CB 9 and local civic groups that the existing zoning did not protect the neighborhoods’ primary housing stock — one- and two-family homes. Overdevelopment had become an issue as the area became a popular destination for new families, especially immigrants, and houses were being demolished by developers and replaced by small multifamily apartment buildings. The neighborhoods are known for their detached homes with front yards and driveways, though some of the areas that were rezoned have semi-attached homes or rowhouses Much of the residential parts of the neighborhood were downzoned to prevent these homes from being demolished for small apartment buildings, which City Planning said was “out of character” for the neighborhoods.
The council approved the rezoning but modified the proposal on one block between 135th Avenue and Van Wyck Expressway north of Liberty Avenue to allow for development.
“After the council’s vote, residents of Woodhaven and Richmond Hill will finally see an end to development that destroyed the neighborhoods’ characteristic one- and two-family homes,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle VIllage). “The new zone also encourages economic growth along Jamaica and Atlantic avenues.”
The commercial strip along Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven and Atlantic Avenue between 104th and 121 streets was rezoned to allow for more development including higher mixed-use buildings. City Planning said that upzoning was done to allow apartments to be built over commercial sites to fulfill the growing housing needs of the community — the issue that was leading to one- and two-family homes to be demolished and replaced by denser housing stock. It would also keep the denser population closer to mass transit, which runs along the avenues, and allow for more commercial development. A section of Jamaica Avenue between Woodhaven Boulevard and 100th Street was rezoned to allow for construction as high as 70 feet. City Planning also said it wanted to keep commercial properties off residential streets.
“This will hopefully encourage some development along the avenue and protect some of our homes,” Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association said. The section of Jamaica Avenue east of Woodhaven Boulevard into Richmond Hill is economically stagnant and has thrived less in recent years than the more bustling section west of the boulevard.
He noted the property next door to him went up for sale and he is concerned about what would happen with it. Rezoning would limit what could be built on the site if a new owner decides to construct a new building. But Wendell pointed out that there’s always the option for a variance.
Nevertheless, he said the rezoning was long overdue.
“It’s been 52 years since Woodhaven was rezoned, and it’ll probably be another 52 before we’re zoned again,” he said. City Planning rezoned much of the rest of the area within CB 9 in the last decade and is expected to move on to areas of CB 10 adjacent to the newly rezoned neighborhoods next.