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City Planning presents new rezoning project

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The department's proposal would create special zoning regulations for 37 centrally located blocks in Long Island City, said Joseph Rose, chairman of the City Planning Commission. It would allow large mixed-use buildings to be constructed on sites located one or two subway stops just east of midtown Manhattan, he said.

Rose said Long Island City's new zoning plans would benefit the entire city by allowing businesses to expand across the East River while developing areas in western Queens.

"This rezoning will transform Long Island City into a major business district, joining the city's other central business districts in Midtown, Lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn," Rose said in a statement. "Long Island City will accommodate the city's expanding economy by providing development opportunities that are in short supply elsewhere in the city."

The proposed rezoning area lies at the eastern end of the Queensborough Bridge and encompasses a triangular set of blocks bounded by the Sunnyside Yards of East 23rd Street on the west and 41st Avenue on the north. This area includes important transit stops at Court Square and Queens Plaza. Developers would be able to erect the largest buildings at these locations under the proposed rezoning, which was a goal heralded by Queens officials for nearly a decade.

Dolores Rizzotto, district manager for Community Board 2, which covers Sunnyside, Woodside and parts of Long Island City, said the community board is slated to discuss the proposals at its meeting Thursday.

"They were just received in the mail," she said Wednesday. "The chairman will certify the application has been received through City Planning. We'll be setting up the hearings tomorrow."

Rose said investment spurred by rezoning is expected to produce about 5 million square feet of new office development over the next 10 years.

The proposed change would create a new Special Long Island City Mixed Use District including four general regulations, Rose said. They are:

*      New commercial, residential and community facility uses which would be allowed "as of right" (not requiring approval from the city) in addition to light manufacturing uses to reflect the area's mixed use character and facilitate 24-hour activities.

*      High density developments, which would be allowed on surrounding blocks at Queens Plaza and Court Square, and moderate density developments

*      Floor area bonuses specifically targeted to publicly accessible open park space by new developments on two blocks adjacent to the Dutch Kills and Hunters Point neighborhood

*      Principal circulation corridors which would allow for a lively pedestrian environment fostered by sidewalk widening along Queens Plaza and Northern Boulevard, as well as ground floor treatments for most developments.

The rezoning stems from the department's planning approach for the broader Long Island City neighborhood outlined in a report seven years ago: "Plan for Long Island City: A Framework for Development."

The report called for creating a new Long Island City central business district, setting up low-density manufacturing districts for surrounding industrial areas, and encouraging new development in the adjacent Hunter's Point area by spurring economic and industrial growth. Implementation of the manufacturing and residential rezoning took place in 1995.

In conjunction with the rezoning, Rose said the city is trying to stimulate development in the area by proposing to sell the municipal parking garage located on a full block measuring about 126,000 square feet at the intersection of Queens Plaza South and Jackson Avenue. The block has several entrances to the Queens Plaza subway station and under the rezoning, the site could be redeveloped with a structure containing 1.5 million square feet of floor area, he said. Any redevelopment of the four-story parking garage would have to provide 1,150 public parking spaces.

"Companies that are now being pushed out of Manhattan because of high costs or unavailability of sites will be able to build as-of-right in Long Island City," Rose said.

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