The city’s proposal to rezone portions of Woodhaven and Richmond Hill is drawing praise and concern from area residents, some who say it would help to prevent overcrowding and others who worry it could limit a growing community’s need to expand.
The 231-block rezoning seeks to keep the one- and two-family homes in the residential areas in an effort to deter more of the multi-family units that have sprung up in recent years, while funneling higher-density housing and commercial developments to main business corridors, like Jamaica and Atlantic avenues, city officials 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.
“Even if a house burns down and someone wants to build there again, with the rezoning they wouldn’t be able to build an apartment building,” said Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association President Ed Wendell. “It’ll help preserve some of the big, beautiful homes in Woodhaven. Someone would be less inclined to tear it down and build something new because they couldn’t tear it down and build a three-family home.”
The Department of City Planning has held, and continues to hold, community outreach meetings on the draft rezoning proposal prior to beginning the formal public review process, which can last up to seven months. City officials are expected to discuss the rezoning plan at the WRBA’s next meeting on Saturday, Jan. 21 at the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps at 78-15 Jamaica Ave.
During the formal review process, there will be hearings at Community Board 9 and Borough Hall, followed by a City Council vote.
Planning officials noted that the zoning in the area being studied has not changed since 1961 and said 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.
Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) agreed with Wendell, saying the rezoning would help to retain the “flavor of the community.”
“Tearing down houses and putting up three-family homes, I don’t see that as a plus for the community,” Miller said. “It creates more people, more cars, more traffic. I see the rezoning as a positive thing for the community. It keeps it small. It makes a one-family house stay that way.”
But Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Corporation, said he and members of his organization are not in favor of the downzoning because it does not address the needs of a rapidly growing community.
“This community is way overcrowded, and you need to address that, not try to push the people away to solve the problem,” Mahadeo said.
But Mahadeo said he also supports funneling more growth to places like Atlantic Avenue.
“We don’t want to limit it to just a piece of Atlantic, though,” he said. “We’re advocating an economic corridor along Atlantic, Lefferts Boulevard and 101st Avenue.”
Still, Albert Baldeo, a Democratic district leader from Richmond Hill who has run for both the City Council and state Assembly, said he supports the rezoning, as long as it provides exceptions for religious organizations, medical centers and educational centers in residential areas to expand.
“Because the community is growing, you need these services to be able to expand,” Baldeo said. “… There’s a lot of McMansions in the area, and they do overburden the district. We should look at social or religious organizations to be given precedence over the McMansions.”