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Queens Chronicle

CB5 gives O’Neill’s rezoning the OK

A second-floor banquet space is planned for the famed restaurant

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Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2018 10:30 am

O’Neill’s in Maspeth is on track for an expansion.

Community Board 5 voted 32-8 last Wednesday in favor of a rezoning plan that would allow the famed restaurant to construct a second story. The additional space would contain a banquet hall that fits up to 140 people.

The plan wasn’t without its critics, however. Neighborhood resident Christine Isherwood told the board she collected more than 200 signatures from people in the area who oppose the expansion.

One of the primary concerns the petitioners have is the effect the expansion could have on parking, as Isherwood said finding a spot on the street is already a hassle.

She and others also expressed concerns about foot traffic and noise outside the restaurant.

“O’Neill’s is a nice place but a catering hall does not belong in a neighborhood,” she said. “It just doesn’t.”

O’Neill’s, which opened in December 1933, was reopened in 2013 to much fanfare after a fire gutted the restaurant.

Danny Pyle, a co-owner of O’Neill’s, said he has an open-door policy and encouraged residents with concerns to speak with him.

“Unfortunately, there is a parking issue but we try our best,” said Pyle, who noted O’Neill’s has a valet parking service.

Under the proposed plan, the height of O’Neill’s would increase from 14 feet to 25 feet with the addition of the second floor. In order to build higher, restaurant ownership is seeking to rezone the plot of land from an R4 to an R5D district with a C2-2 commercial overlay.

The rezoning pitch also includes a handful of other area lots to bring them into compliance with city code.

The plan was presented to CB 5 in April, where it received overwhelming support from neighbors who attended the advisory council’s meeting.

One supporter of the project, Tom McBride, said last Wednesday that parking issues in the area were exacerbated by residents renting their spaces to commercial vehicles.

“We should look at ourselves,” he said. “Everybody in that community on both sides of the street are making profits from letting people park in their driveways.”

CB 5’s Zoning and Land Use Committee recommended the full board vote in favor of the project, a vote of support the committee’s chairman, Walter Sanchez, said came with the “full understanding” that parking is a challenge in the area.

In an effort to alleviate some of those concerns, O’Neill’s submitted letters from various businesses and organizations in the area, including Babco Inc. and Action Tire Services, which they said will allow cars from O’Neill’s to park on their premises.

The restaurant’s management has also committed not to build apartments above the restaurant, even if a future zoning change may allow it, according to Sanchez, who said O’Neill’s has a good track record in the community.

“This business is a solid rock in Maspeth that we feel should thrive as long as their expansion does not put a dent in the fabric of the daily lives of this neighborhood,” he said.

The project is going through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, under which the rulings of CB 5 and Borough President Melinda Katz are advisory, with the City Council making the decision.

In other board business, the group voted in support of a proposal from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to convert a vacant storefront at the corner of 69th Street and Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village into a pet intake center.

The center, which would replace a similar facility in Rego Park, would be run by Animal Care Centers of NYC.

It would have five employees, including a veterinarian, and operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week.

The board also heard a presentation from the Department of City Planning on a proposal that would require hotel developers to obtain a special permit before building in M1 manufacturing zones.

The pitch comes as hotel construction has increased in recent years in conjunction with the number of tourists, and as many in Queens are being used by the city to house homeless people.

The city believes that requiring a special permit would deter hoteliers from building in locations designed for manufacturing uses.

“What we’ve seen and what has driven part of this M1 special permit is that they are building hotels very rapidly and they’re just throwing them up anywhere,” CB 5 Chairman Vincent Arcuri said. “That is what fueled this idea of the M1 special permit.”

The Queens Borough Board is expected to vote on it at its June 11 meeting.

Welcome to the discussion.