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Douglaston civic gives $2K to oppose Bayside Chabad

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Douglaston Civic Association President Eliott Socci told members gathered at the Community Church of Douglaston Tuesday the group had pledged $2,000 to help the East Bayside Homeowners Association fight the expansion of a Chabad religious center in Bayside.

"We are not fighting community facilities," said Socci. "We are fighting for regulation of community facilities."

The ability of facilities such as medical offices and houses of worship to be built in residential areas have become one of the top points of contention among civic groups in northeast Queens.

The Douglaston Civic Association has chosen to support the Bayside group's battle with the city Board of Standards and Appeals, which granted four zoning variances to the Chabad center, as part of its drive for greater restrictions on community facilities.

Socci said he expected the City Planning Department to announce reforms to its zoning regulations very soon and those reforms would probably include a formula for parking requirements based on building size, not on the number of fixed seats in the facility as the law currently provides.

Socci also planned to distribute for discussion a letter he wrote in January to Century 21 Laffey Associates protesting the real estate agency's advertisement the month before of a house for sale in Douglaston as suitable for a community facility.

The civic meeting's guest speaker was City Councilman David Weprin (D-Hollis), who represents part of Douglaston and is chairman of the Council's Finance Committee.

Weprin told the meeting that the city would start its next fiscal year with a deficit between $3 billion and $4 billion.

The councilman vowed to fight any efforts to close that gap via tolls on East River bridges, advocating reinstatement of the commuter tax instead.

He also promised to work on rolling back the recent 18.5 percent property tax hike once the city's fiscal crisis has passed.

"It wasn't something we did lightly," said Weprin of the unpopular tax.

In another issue important to Douglaston residents, Weprin said the number of officers at the 111th had dropped by 20 over the last two years.

Socci said he would attend a public meeting, scheduled for March 27 at 7:30 p.m. at MS 158 in Bayside, to address the shortage of officers at the 111th Police Precinct.

Also on the agenda at the civic meeting were ongoing efforts to gain city landmark status for Douglaston Hill.

Members of the Douglaston-Little Neck Historical Society made a similar pitch at Community Board 11's March meeting, in which they urged attendees to send postcards to the Landmarks Preservation Commission.

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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