The long-awaited rezoning of Ozone Park is in motion.
More than 500 blocks of southern Queens, including almost all of Ozone Park and parts of Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park and Woodhaven, will be rezoned this year in what is likely to be the last major zoning project of the Bloomberg administration, and one of the largest.
The plan, which was presented to Community Board 10 last Thursday by Tom Smith, a city planner, is still in a very early draft. It covers an area generally bordered by 103rd Avenue to the north, Lefferts Boulevard and 123rd Street to the east, North Conduit Avenue to the south and the Brooklyn border to the west. A section between the borough border and Woodhaven Boulevard extends to 91st Avenue to the north and an area between 107th and 103rd avenues runs to the Van Wyck Expressway to the east.
The rezoning will also include an upgrading in the commercial zoning along 101st and Liberty avenues, as well as Cross Bay Boulevard between Liberty Avenue and Conduit Boulevard to allow for greater commercial development along those strips.
The rezoning along 101st and Liberty avenues runs from the Brooklyn border to the Van Wyck Expressway — a span of nearly 60 blocks.
“It’s massive,” Smith said. “It ties for the second-largest rezoning project of the Bloomberg administration.”
Two-thirds of the rezoning area is in the CB 10 area, while another third is in CB 9’s. Much of its area was rezoned in the past decade, most recently sections of Woodhaven and Richmond Hill, whose rezoning was approved last summer by the City Council after a nearly two-year debate. Howard Beach and Lindenwood are not included in the rezoning and much of South Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park east of Lefferts Boulevard was removed from the original proposal, which was for over 800 blocks.
“We pared it down to the areas most at risk and that need the most attention,” Smith said.
The area was last rezoned in 1961, along with the entire city. Smith said the zones enacted then did not protect the type of homes in the neighborhood.
“When the zoning was put in place, they were very broad,” he said. “They were based mainly on floor area of the building, not the characteristics of the buildings themselves.”
The result has been demolition of some of the detached and semidetached homes typical of the neighborhood and construction of two- to three-story condominium-style buildings, which is what the new zoning plan seeks to prevent.
At least nine new zoning categories will be created for the neighborhood to fit the diverse housing stock in Ozone Park, which ranges from detached two-family homes to row houses.
The largest zoning strictly for residential use will be for R4-1 houses, which are one-to two-family detached or semidetached homes common in places like Tudor Village in Ozone Park and the Wakefield section of South Ozone Park. That zone will cover more than a third of the area, or 215 blocks.
The R4A zone is the second largest of the planned categories, covering 150 blocks, mainly in Ozone Park within a few blocks of Liberty Avenue. Unlike the R4-1 zone, the R4A is focused solely on detached one- and two-family homes.
Other zoning categories include R3A, which will cover 50 blocks, mainly in the Centreville section of Ozone Park, South Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park. That zone will protect one- and two-family detached homes on a minimum 25-foot wide lot and require at least a 10-foot front yard. Many of these houses have been demolished over the years to make way for more boxy structures.
The R3X zone will cover 54 blocks, including much of South Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park, and will allow for the same criteria as the R3A, but with a 35-foot wide lot allowance.
All or part of 31 blocks will be rezoned R4B, which includes all housing types, but with a 5-foot front yard. Many of the houses in these areas are attached homes, such as those along 80th Street between Liberty and 101st avenues or 110th Street between 107th and 109th avenues.
Row houses, such as those seen along 104th Street just north of Liberty Avenue, or 103rd Avenue between 93rd and 94th streets, will be rezoned R5B, which will allow higher construction and a minimum 10-foot front yard.
The R6B zone will also cover 215 blocks, but will be focused along 101st and Liberty avenues, which will allow for storefronts and apartments overhead, similar to what already exists along most of those corridors. Buildings would be limited to 50 feet tall.
“We hope that will create a cohesiveness in all of these areas,” Smith said. “This could really make some sizeable change.”
Eight blocks along Rockaway and Cross Bay boulevards will be rezoned R5D to allow for mixed-used buildings, at a maximum height of 40 feet, that will have stores on the ground floor and community space or offices on higher floors.
“I don’t know we’ll see that much change down there,” Smith said. “Maybe one or two of these at the most.”
He said the commercial area around the busy Lefferts Boulevard-Liberty Avenue intersection will be downzoned because the original zoning allowed for buildings as high as 13 stories in the area.
“Originally, city planners saw this as a downtown-type location. Fortunately, no one has sought to build a building that size,” he said. “If they had, it would just tower over the community.”
The new zoning regulations for that area will be R6A, which will reduce the maximum height of a structure there to 70 feet, down from nearly 100 feet previously.
“This is by no means finalized,” he said. “This is just what we’re looking at to date.”
The next step is for City Planning to file an application for rezoning, likely to be done later this summer. Within 60 days of receiving it, the community boards must hold public hearings and approve or reject the proposal. It then goes to the borough president for approval within 30 days. City Planning then gives it one more thumbs up and after 60 days to review it, the City Council will vote on it.
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who has been pushing for the rezoning for years, says he would like to have the rezoning plan move through the process later this year.
“I’m hopeful we can complete most of the work and enact the new zoning laws if not by the end of this year, then very early next year,” he said.
Ulrich noted many of the civic leaders have already seen the plan and have been in meetings with City Planning for almost two years. That, he argued, should cut down on the number of issues neighborhood leaders have with the proposals.
“In this instance, we can move rather quickly because we’ve been working together,” Ulrich said. “But the community will have a direct say and comment on the zones and suggest changes.”
It could be another half century before Ozone Park’s zones get looked at again, Ulrich stressed.
“This is our one shot to get this right; we will not rezone Ozone Park for 50 years,” he said. “Ten years from now, we will look back and say ‘this is nice, this is wonderful.’”