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CB 7 approves changes to 39th Ave. building plan

Community Board 7 voted to approve a change in the plans to build a controversial 12-story building on 39th Avenue Monday, the first time the board has okayed any part of the proposal.

The property, bought by Pi Associates more than five years ago, is home to an HSBC bank at 136-21 Roosevelt Ave. between Main and Union streets. Pi Associates and its founder, James Pi, plan to put up a 12-story building on the back of the property on 39th Avenue. The lot is currently used for parking.

Pi Associates hopes to use the building for a vocational school for immigrants, said Eric Palatnik, an attorney for the group. The first floor would be used for stores and the upper floors would be used as offices.

“This has been in front of our hands a number of years,” said Frank Macchio, a member of the board at Monday’s meeting.

Macchio explained that the project came before the board in February 2000. Pi needed a variance for the square footage, which was 20 percent too big for the zoning. After a committee voted to reject the proposal, the board echoed the committee’s recommendation.

In October 2000, Pi returned to the board, making changes to his proposal. But Pi’s plans only had 61 parking spots, while the law called for 78 spots, so he sought another variance for the building. A committee vote recommended approval of the project, but the board chose to reject the project again. Members argued that the building would aggravate parking problems in downtown Flushing.

Pi then took the proposal to the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals. After working with the BSA, the city agency approved Pi’s plans in December 2000 despite the community board’s negative recommendation.

The community board had warned Pi that its architectural parking plans were not feasible and Raymond Chen Architects, which designed the building, found flaws in the parking plan.

Raymond Chen Architects then redesigned the building, increasing the size of the basement for parking and moving the elevator, which created slightly more square footage.

“We’ve done a good job at making changes to the building,” said Palatnik.

Noting that BSA would likely approve the changes, the board voted to approve the changes.

According to Palatnik, BSA probably will review the changes in March. Construction was expected to begin after BSA approval and will last about a year, said Palatnik.

The board also voted to approve a proposal for the Flushing Town Hall to acquire an additional parking lot.

The arts and cultural center currently has a lot with 32 spaces. It often uses the 54 spaces located a block away at 135-19 35th Ave. At Monday’s meeting, the city Department of Cultural Affairs moved to acquire the 35th Avenue lot on behalf of the Flushing Town Hall.

“What we’re suggesting is not really a change in usage, just a change in ownership,” said Jo-Ann Jones, executive and creative director of the Flushing Town Hall.

At the beginning of the meeting, Stanley Cogan of the Queens Historical Society presented a plan to assign 12 structures in Beechhurst and Robinwood plaques giving them a Queensmark status.

The plaques are designed to note the structure’s history. “We feel by identifying these places we could contribute to Queens heritage,” said Cogan.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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