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Housing development plan causes concern

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A housing development planned for an unoccupied plot in Queens Village should revitalize the area, its builders contend, but some residents and community leaders worry about the effect on traffic and parking.

According to plans filed with the city Department of Buildings, the developer, 211 Building Corp., will subdivide the property at 211-57 94th Rd. into 13 separate lots. Until recently, there were two unoccupied houses on the property just off Jamaica Avenue near Hollis Court Boulevard. Fire destroyed one in February and the other will be demolished once the developer moves ahead with the project.

The lot, currently strewn with garbage and surrounded by chain-link fencing, is about the size of a Little League baseball field.

“I’m afraid of a bad parking situation that would be hard on the area,” said Marc Cloutier, a member of the Queens Village Civic Association who lives near the planned development. “It would be hard to envision 13 houses with a good parking situation.”

Cloutier characterized parking as “a little difficult” because the area is so close to the businesses on Jamaica Avenue.

On a recent afternoon, parked cars lined both sides of 212th Street. Some motorists even resorted to parking on the dead-end 94th Road — a sodden, muddy, puddle-filled mess that stretches for only about 75 feet west of 212th Street.

Richard Hellenbrecht, chairman of Community Board 13, shared some of the concerns about congestion.

“To put 13 new buildings into a space that has two — now that’s really going to cram things in,” he said.

But he cautioned against jumping to conclusions.

“I’m a firm believer in zoning and the right that that grants,” he said, “and that is the ability to build something that is in the zoning code without having to go before community review.”

Whether the developer’s plans for the property fall within the current zoning restrictions is still not clear. Hellenbrecht said Community Board 13 had written the developer requesting an explanation of his plans for the area. As of Tuesday, the board still had not received a response.

The president of 211 Building Corp., Joseph Emergi, did not return calls from the TimesLedger, but the architect associated with the project, Gerald Caliendo, said the development would be a boon to the area.

“They’re going to be beautiful,” he said in an interview, outlining the plan for 13 semi-detached two-family homes, with a new private street providing access. He said the development would go a long way toward improving the neighborhood.

Caliendo declined to say explicitly whether the project would require a zoning variance, but there are indications that it will. Hellenbrecht said most of the property is zoned R-2, which means that only single-family, detached houses can be built there. Any plan like the one outlined by Caliendo for two-family homes would require a variance.

In addition, Caliendo said that now was not the right time to debate the merits of the project. “This will come before the community board,” he explained.

That comment suggests that a zoning variance will be needed, since all construction projects that do not fall within zoning restrictions must undergo community board review. Those reviews carry no legal weight, but they do give residents the opportunity to voice their opposition or support.

Among the issues sure to be voiced when the time comes will be parking. Caliendo dismissed such concerns, saying current law requires that builders provide one parking space per family unit in the development.

But whether one parking space per family will be enough remains to be seen.

“There’s too much traffic,” Cloutier’s mother, Claire, said of the immediate area. “It’s like a bunch of rats.”

Reach reporter Alex Ginsberg by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 157.

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