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Queens Chronicle

Rezoning gets stamp of approval

CB 9 votes to support plan for Rich. Hill, Woodhaven

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Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 12:51 pm, Thu Mar 22, 2012.

Community Board 9 unanimously threw its support on Tuesday behind the city’s proposal to rezone a 229-block area in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill that residents, city planners and legislators say will help to prevent overcrowding and funnel development into main commercial corridors.

“After seven years of talking about this, we finally have rezoning in Woodhaven,” said CB 9 member Maria Thomson, who helped to originally spearhead the rezoning study. “This is wonderful.”

The proposed rezoning, which still needs to go before the borough president and for a final vote by the City Council, 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, city planners said at the meeting. A number of residents have lamented the fact that many of the neighborhood’s old homes, including Queen Anne Victorians, have been torn down and replaced with structures they say are out of character with the rest of the community.

Additionally, planners said the move would encourage higher-density housing and commercial development on main business strips, such as Jamaica and Atlantic avenues.

The rezoning was crafted in response to concerns raised by Community Board 9, area civic organizations and elected officials.

The 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.

The plan has garnered much support from area residents, though members of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Corporation said they worried a downzoning would not accommodate families’ need to build additions in order to allow a number of generations to reside in the same house. No one from the RHEDC was present at Tuesday’s meeting.

“We do want to retain the communities we have now, and we simply do not have the infrastructure” to accommodate an influx in population, Kate Mooney, a representative for Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), said of residents’ criticism of the downzoning.

Richmond Hill resident Carina Nieves said there are serious problems with the existing zoning, but disagreed that the main business corridors’ zoning should be changed to allow for taller buildings.

For example, portions of Jamaica and Atlantic avenues would be zoned R6A instead of the current R5.

The shift would change the maximum building height from 40 to 70 feet, which city officials and legislators have praised because they said it would allow businesses to expand.

“I’ve seen a lot of houses knocked down in the area, and it’s caused a lot of parking issues and overcrowding issues,” Nieves said. “I don’t want our neighborhood to become the next Jackson Heights.”

Before the board took its vote, John Young, director of the Queens office of City Planning, and Brendan Pillar, a city planner, presented information about the rezoning and noted that the regulations for the area in question have not changed in 50 years.

“We’re seeking to keep the residential blocks the way they are and have a long-term strategy to upgrade the commercial streets so there can be new development,” he said. .

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