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Queens Chronicle

Variance approved to turn lot to home

Community Board 3 overwhelmingly votes for building new residence

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Posted: Thursday, October 25, 2018 10:30 am

After more than 40 years, a vacant lot in East Elmhurst is showing signs of life.

Community Board 3 last Thursday overwhelmingly voted in support of a variance that would allow for a two-story home to be built at 31-41 97th St. The lot, not far from the Louis Armstrong Middle School, has been vacant since the city tore down a home at the location in 1976.

“We feel that this resolves a hardship in a unique situation, fills a lot that has been vacant for 40 years and fits with the character of the neighborhood,” said architect Arthur Yellin, who is working with the owner, Luisa Beneby, to develop the property.

Yellin said the situation is a result of the city’s decision years ago to subdivide the lot after it condemned and demolished the dilapidated structure that previously existed there. Officials sold the parcels separately and Beneby bought one of the lots in 1978.

Developing the 20-foot-wide lot has proven to be a challenge, according to Yellin. A variance is needed because the property doesn’t have enough space to include a side yard. It is also not feasible to have a driveway or garage with two parking spaces side-by-side.

“It cannot be developed in any way without a variance,” Yellin said.

Beneby has filed plans with the Buildings Department to construct a two-story, twofamily home. It would include a garage underneath the building with vehicles parked in tandem, one in front of the other. The sides of the home would be on the lot lines.

One of the conditions for the variance is that the hardship for which relief is being sought wasn’t created by the owner. The proposed home is also required to fit within the context of the neighborhood. Yellin said both requirements were satisfied.

“The situation was actually created by the city itself. The city took a legal lot and subdivided it, making it an illegal lot,” said Yellin, adding that the proposed home is “very contextual.”

“It’s two-family, two stories and the size of the building is actually pretty close to what all the other buildings have,” he said.

After receiving assurances the proposed home would meet building codes, board members were largely receptive to the plan.

“It’s an eyesore, correct? There’s nothing there. And you want to build housing?” Frank Taylor asked, nodding approvingly.

“A colleague of mine who is not here tonight but was at our committee meeting made the statement that it’s better to have housing than it is to have an open yard,” board member Edwin Westley said. “I agree with that.”

Community Board 3 also voted Thursday in support of a 10-year extension of a variance for the Conoco gas station at 85-05 Astoria Blvd. in East Elmhurst. The variance is needed because a gas station wouldn’t otherwise be allowed in a residential area.

The board will vote next month on the capital and expense budget for fiscal year 2020.

The board’s priorities include the construction of new school facilities, reducing the odor of and improving water flow in Flushing Bay and constructing a performing arts center above the Jackson Heights Post Office.

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