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Flushing pushes for zoning to protect area’s character

Several Queens civic associations are organizing efforts to have the city impose new zoning regulations that would preserve the character of their neighborhoods.

Community leaders in Jamaica Hill, Flushing, Laurelton, Richmond Hill and Astoria are preparing to file applications with City Planning to have their neighborhoods rezoned for the first time in decades, said Paul Graziano, the land use chairman of the Queens Civic Congress.

Many Queens residents fear that under the current zoning regulations in many neighborhoods new buildings will be put up that do not match the character of the other facilities in the community. One such scenario recently arose when a home on 67th Avenue in Rego Park was converted into a three-story apartment building in a neighborhood of one- and two-family homes, worrying many residents about the negative effects on their quality of life.

“The goal is to rezone those neighborhoods so new developments will reflect the current developments that are there today,” said Graziano, a Flushing resident who is assisting several civic organizations in rezoning efforts. “Most of Queens is not zoned correctly.”

The last citywide zoning study, conducted in 1961, introduced regulations that no longer make sense, Graziano contends.

Community leaders are hoping to follow in the footsteps of Kew Gardens Hills, which was rezoned several years ago, and Forest Hills and Rego Park, which filed rezoning applications recently to have parts of their communities protected against out-of-context developments, such as multi-story apartment complexes and office buildings.

Still, the process is cumbersome, requiring neighborhood assessments and a collection of data that can take several years, said John Young, director of the Queens office of City Planning. Business. Housing and environmental studies must be conducted and the boundaries of the neighborhoods to be rezoned have to be determined, Young said.

In April, the Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella group of civic organizations in the borough, held a conference on rezoning to instruct community leaders on how to file an application, Graziano said.

City Planning also may help by conducting zoning studies itself or by helping civic organizations do so, Young said.

Jamaica Hill and Flushing civic organizations may be about a year away from filing rezoning applications and further along in the process than community leaders from Laurelton, Richmond Hill and Astoria, Graziano said.

In Jamaica Hill, a community of predominantly one- and two-story homes, residents are concerned that developers will put up facilities that break with the character of their neighborhoods, said Pat Dolan, executive vice president of the Queens Civic Congress. They are working to have 60 blocks rezoned.

“We’re still in a real-estate boom, though the economy has softened. The result of that is that property is being sold to buyers who want to develop it to its highest potential,” said Dolan, who fears developers will invade Jamaica Hill.

Graziano, who unsuccessfully ran for City Council on the Green Party ticket against John Liu (D-Flushing) last year, has been working to have 150 blocks in Flushing rezoned for about three years, he said.

Some Flushing residents hope to have certain neighborhoods in the community zoned to protect their suburban character of one- and two-story homes. Other neighborhoods adjacent to densely developed areas should be rezoned to actually allow more development and, in effect, protect the suburban areas, Graziano said.

Community leaders from Laurelton, Richmond Hill and Astoria are still in the initial phases of working to have their neighborhoods rezoned, Graziano said, and hope to work with City Planning to move toward new regulations.

Reach reporter Brendan Browne by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 155.

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