The neighborhood of Corona south of Roosevelt Avenue is filled with two-story wood- paneled houses. The side streets are narrow and slope down to Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and main streets such as Corona Avenue and 108th Street are lined mostly with brick two- and three-story buildings that have businesses on the ground floors and apartments above.
Establishments like the 60-year-old Lemon Ice King of Corona surround William Moore Park, which twinkles with strings of white lights at night.
But the neighborhood isn’t static or perfect.
Corona has faced its share of problems, which comes with having more liquor licenses than Midtown Manhattan. It also has an increasing population of renters and people who stay for less than a year, which detracts from the everyone-knows-everyone feel of the Corona of years past, Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) said.
And then there’s the issue with development.
Developers see a gold mine in the four-family-zoned area and they are increasingly buying homes and replacing them with taller apartment buildings.
“They are knocking down one- and two- family homes and building monstrosities where they used to be,” Moya said.
South Corona resident Judith D’Andrea decried such development on her block at a town hall meeting last week.
Anthony Iuliano, the community affairs officer for the Department of Buildings, responded to her concern by saying that under current regulations these changes are perfectly legal.
But that’s why officials are attempting to rejuvenate efforts to downzone the neighborhood.
Retaining the area’s character through downzoning was former Community Board 4 District Manager Richard Italiano’s baby, according to Moya’s Chief of Staff Meghan Tadio. When Italiano died suddenly on Jan. 18, 2012 the project stalled, but now the assemblyman and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-Corona) plan to reboot efforts to work with Community Board 4 and the Department of City Planning to get it done.
“It’s taxing on schools. It’s taxing on the utilities,” Moya said. “It’s about quality of life. We can’t use this type of growth. It needs to be sensible development instead.”
Ferreras has been working on new zoning overlays since she was elected in 2009, she said.
“Presently, my priority on this issue has been a rezoning of East Elmhurst to include changes to the commercial overlay zones on the south side of Roosevelt Avenue to match the zoning on the north side,” Ferreras said. “Because much of the zoning has not been updated for several decades, many of my constituents are unable to bring necessary resources, such as new businesses, to the community.”
In 2003 the city rezoned Corona north of Roosevelt Avenue to 32nd Avenue. The neighborhood had not been revisited since 1961 and the new zoning allowed more housing on some streets, since the area saw a population boom of 40,000 from 1990 to 2000, and on side streets it established a zone to encourage two-family homes with front walls no taller than 25 feet. Some blocks within that area were downzoned again in 2009, according to the DCP.
The department has received several more requests from residents to look at areas that similarly have not been rezoned since 1961.
“It’s definitely a big issue,” current CB 4 District Manager Christian Cassagnol said. “We get lots of complaints about building.”