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Maspeth lot plans meet opposition

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A proposal to erect a row of storefront businesses with apartments upstairs on the site of a long-closed 69th Street gas station drew the ire of Maspeth residents at last week’s Community Board 5 meeting.

The board also voiced its support for the idea of creating a YMCA community center on the former site of Keyspan’s Elmhurst gas tanks, and discussed possible revisions to a proposed 70-unit housing project on Admiral Avenue in Middle Village.

Dozens of residents at the March 13 public hearing opposed an application for a variance submitted by Avalanche Enterprises allowing mixed-use buildings on property zoned residential.

Adam Rothkrug, the attorney representing Avalanche, said the company wants to build four “traditional ‘50s-style taxpayer buildings” on a triangular lot at 69th Street and Brown Place.

The gas station closed in the 1980s and the property is now used to sell furniture. The former service station garage, covered in badly weathered paint, sports a sign that reads “North Carolina Furniture Warehouse,” alongside a group of trailers parked where the gas pumps stood. The rest of the site is empty except for the cracked concrete pavement.

Rothkrug said the variance is needed because the zoning is “too restrictive to permit any type of development” on the property due to its irregular shape.

Robert Holden, a board member who is also the Juniper Park Civic Association president, said the community staunchly opposes putting up any buildings that mix commercial and residential uses.

“It worked in the 1950s. It doesn’t work today,” he said. “I don’t think you would want to live above a 24-hour deli. If you mixed it, you would have all the nightmares we’ve had for years in the neighborhood.”

Although Rothkrug said the developer would agree to restrict the types of stores and their operating hours, residents made it clear they wanted no commercial development on the site.

“It’s people like us who are the backbone of this community in our one- and two-family homes,” said Mary Ann Mirabile, a resident of 58th Road.

Later in the meeting, the community board approved a resolution supporting the creation of a YMCA community center on a Keyspan Corporation lot in Elmhurst where two gas tanks stood until their removal in the late 1990s.

“Our whole community needs something like this,” said board member Michael Hetzer.

Community board members said the YMCA expressed an interest in establishing a community center on the site. But a Keyspan spokesman said the company has yet to determine a use for the six-acre property beyond retaining one acre for its own use.

“We’ve made no decisions on reuse or sale of the land,” said Keyspan spokesman Ed Yutkowitz. “We want to be as cooperative with the communities as we possibly can. We try to be a good neighbor.”

The community board’s land use committee re-examined another controversial development proposal Monday, when developer Henry Fabian discussed the possibility of scaling down his proposed 70-unit project on Admiral Avenue.

In January, the community board voted against the project because they considered it too large for the property. Fabian refused at the time to make the project smaller.

He returned to the board for the Monday night meeting at the request of Borough President Helen Marshall to offer a compromise. Marshall has not issued a recommendation.

To build the residential development on the commercially zoned property, Fabian must receive a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals, which heard arguments in the case Tuesday. The community board’s recommendation is supposed to be considered when the BSA makes its decision.

Gary Giordano, the board’s district manager, said Fabian would only agree to reduce the number of units to 59 from 70. But the community board will not hold another hearing on the project unless he presents a new design for the site.

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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