Queens residents who contend their quiet, residential neighborhoods are being jeopardized by the development of a variety of community facilities have a champion in Community Board 7.
At its February meeting Monday, the board voted 31-1 to approve a land use resolution which members hope will rally other community boards, civic associations and elected officials throughout the city to change current zoning laws.
The resolution was the result of the combined efforts of a zoning subcommittee, CB 7 vice chair Millicent O'Meally and John Liu, president of the North Flushing Civic Association.
Charles Apelian, who chairs CB 7's zoning subcommittee, said the 1960s-era as-of-right law that allows community facilities to build on residential lots "means one day you have a neighbor, the next day you might have some sort of facility next to you."
He said the practice has led to old homes being torn down as lots are assembled and sold as a package and unregulated increases in pedestrian and vehicle traffic and parking in once quiet neighborhoods.
There are many types of buildings defined as community facilities, including libraries, schools, houses of worship and community centers.
O'Meally, Liu and their neighbors have been fighting a proposed plan by the Salvation Army to tear down three homes at 32-08 and 32-14 Parsons Blvd. and 142-50 32nd Ave. to build a community and worship center.
Foes of the Salvation Army's plans have said they have nothing against the group's mission, but that in the past decade the number of community facilities in their area has grown from seven to more than 30 and enough is enough.
The resolution states that existing city zoning regulations should be changed to give civics and community boards a say in the building of community facilities, prevent areas from being oversaturated with such buildings, provide on-site parking at community facilities and regulate them by hours of operation and use.
The resolution will be forwarded to other community boards, civics and elected officials throughout the city for input, as well as to real estate companies.
"We put together these items as an outline of the most pressing issues," Apelian said. "We feel it's an ideal wish list, a place to start."
In other building matters, CB 7 again voted against the development plans of James Pi, a Long Island resident who has been trying to develop property at 136-21 Roosevelt Ave. since he purchased it over three years ago.
Originally, Pi had wanted to build a hotel on the site, but the plan was rejected by CB 7.
At Monday's meeting, his new plan was to erect a 13-story, 50,277-square-foot office complex which would include indoor parking, retail on the ground floor and a three-floor vocational school with a rooftop garden.
Pi, however, needed a zoning variance for the square footage, which was 20 percent over what is required.
A five-person CB 7 subcommittee voted 3-2 to disapprove the variance and the full board echoed its agreement with a 30-1 vote.
Board members said with the zoning only having recently been changed in the area after a 10-year effort on the part of CB 7 and City Councilwoman Julia Harrison (D-Flushing) to allow for easier as-of-right development, Pi was asking for too much.
"It violates the aims we worked so hard to achieve," Harrison told the meeting.
"Let them come back with something as-of-right that works" or a better plan more deserving of a variance, Apelian said.
There also were major concerns about parking. Although Pi's lawyer, Eric Palatnik noted the planned 60 parking spaces were more than the required 40, board members said he intended to use valet parking.
The concern was the valet parking would result in cars lining up along the downtown streets, causing even more congestion there.
"I think if you want to provide a community service to Flushing, build a parking lot there," said John Watts, a member of Harrison's staff. "Just have 13 stories of parking. It'd be wonderful."
Pi said if downtown Flushing wants to attract business professionals, it needs to have updated office space with adjoining parking like Manhattan.
Pi said he would probably return to CB 7 with another plan in three months.
©2000 Community News Group
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