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Queens Chronicle

Bayside Neighbors Disgusted With Overdevelopment In Area

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Posted: Thursday, July 1, 2004 12:00 am

“Enough is enough,” was the chant of over 30 Bayside residents on Friday night, who stood under umbrellas in heavy rain for nearly two hours to protest the planned demolition of two historic homes in their neighborhood.

The rally, organized by the New Property Civic Association, began at 7:30 p.m. in front of 42-31 209th Street, a Tudor-style home built around 1910. Protesters then walked to 42-30 208th Street to demonstrate against developers’ plans to raze the houses and construct multi-family buildings.

Catherine McNally, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1955 and raised her 11 children in Bayside, was the first to arrive. “I’ve seen it happen again and again,” she said. “They tear the old homes down and build new places that are not appropriate for the area.”

During the past few years, developers have been building in Queens at an unprecedented rate. From 1995 to 1999 the borough averaged 1,360 new housing permits a year; between 2000 and 2003 that number increased by more than 150 percent.

The reason for such swift development is the increase in the borough’s population. From 1990 to 2000 Queens grew by more than a quarter of a million people, the largest growth of any county in the state.

Because the demand for housing is much greater than the supply, prices have surged. Some homeowners have seized the opportunity to sell. With interest rates at a historic low, developers are buying at a brisk pace.

“What we’re fighting here are low interest rates and developers with satchels of cash,” said Andy Ippolito, president of the New Property Civic Association.

As more people arrived at Friday’s rally, they admired the stained glass windows and wide front porch of the three-level white house with brown trim. Inside the house, original oak shelves and trimming remain, as well as leaded glass doors.

According to Ippolito, the home once belonged to Tad Dorgan, a turn-of-the-last-century cartoonist for the New York Journal. Dorgan is widely credited with coining the phrase “hot dog.”

Protesters stood on the front lawn by the wide stump of an ancient willow tree that had recently been cut down in preparation for construction.

Just 10 days before the rally, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his support for initiatives that would slow down development in more than a dozen neighborhoods in Queens. The administration’s plan is to change the zoning regulations so that multi-family buildings are no longer allowed in areas that primarily consist of one- and two-family houses.

“He left out one important element,” Ippolito said in response to the mayor’s announcement, “how long it will take. The last rezoning completed in Corona took over a decade.” The mayor’s press office did not return calls seeking comment.

Rezoning is an involved process. After a block-by-block inspection of the existing structures in a neighborhood, city planners create a new map of the district based on their findings. The local community board, the borough president, the City Planning Commission and the City Council must review the proposal before it can be adopted.

Last year, volunteers from the New Property Civic Association mapped huge areas of Bayside on their own in order to expedite the rezoning process. According to Ippolito, the organization waited over a year for a response from the City Planning Commission.

“The silence was deafening,” Ippolito said. “By the time rezoning is complete there are going to be 50 more buildings gone. It’s not going to make any difference.”

The City Planning Commission will present a new zoning map for Bayside in September. The process most likely will be completed next February or March, according to Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant at the rally. “That leaves nine months of mischief and the developers are having a field day,” he said. “In most other parts of the country people want these neighborhoods protected. Here the real estate people are so powerful they make the rules.”

The protesters ended their rally in front of 42-30 208th Street, a wooden and stone Arts and Crafts-style house, about 80 years old. The style was designed to show harmony between the building and its outside surroundings.

On the door hangs a sign that reads, “Warning. Keep Out. Poison.” Pre-demolition permits have already been issued to developers.

David Wilcox has been living next door to the dwelling since 1996. “We’re standing out in the rain because we’re very unhappy,” he said. “Because of the over-development, there aren’t enough places to park, schools are becoming overcrowded, the look of the area is changing and the tranquility is being destroyed.”

Other residents of 208th Street are equally upset. It will be the second home on their block to be demolished in six months. “It’s always been a close-knit neighborhood, but not anymore,” said Steven Kmiotek. “People are speculating, they’re selling their homes to the highest bidder and they don’t care what happens to the community.”

His wife, Kathy, added that they would like to invite the mayor to come there and see what ’s happening. She has lived in the neighborhood for over 30 years.

Graziano urged residents to call poiliticians and make their concerns known, especially the mayor. “Bloomberg knows there ’s no chance in hell he ’s going to be reelected without Northern Queens. In 2000 he got 77 percent of the vote. He ’s now polling at around 30 percent here.”

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