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Residents of Floral Park oppose Hillside Ave mall

Residents of a Floral Park neighborhood voiced strong opposition about a plan to build a 10,000-square-foot shopping center at the corner of 260th street and Hillside avenue during a recent meeting of Community Board 13.

Opponents of the development gathered 500 signatures on a petition to oppose the mall, which would come at the expense of two houses and two small businesses. Neighbors said that the increased traffic, noise and trash created by the development would have a negative impact on the community and make the block less appealing for families with children.

"When you knock out single-family homes, you never get those back. That's a problem for a community," neighbor and community board member Seymour Finkelstein said. "It's enough that Hillside is developed, now they're moving into the block."

Finkelstein said community opposition began without any deliberate coordination or planning and as word about the shopping center spread, complaints arose spontaneously. CB 13 met June 23.

Developers are moving forward with the project, which would bring major chain stores such as Taco Bell and Subway to the neighborhood, saying protesters are exaggerating the opposition to the mall.

"This will only do good for the neighborhood because it will make the block look nicer," developer Tony Hack said. "A lot of people have called me and said, 'I'm not signing (the petition). I think this is good for the neighborhood.'"

Finkelstein refuted that claim and said that nearly everyone on the block has expressed frustration over the project because its proximity to the shopping center would significantly alter the atmosphere of the entire neighborhood.

"I live a few blocks away and what happens a few blocks away affects the way you live," he said.

Although almost entirely residential, the block is zoned for potential commercial use and is designated an "as of right" area, meaning landowners are allowed to use their land as they see fit, Community Board 13 District Manager Sally Martino-Fisher said. Hack reiterated this fact, saying that the project is "100 percent legal."

Martino-Fisher said the community is not in a position to do anything about the mall and that filing a complaint with the city Buildings Department is currently not an option because the project is not yet on file.

The main problem may be related to improper zoning laws due to a failure to update the rules more frequently, Martino-Fisher added.

"The community is really up in arms about this, and I personally think that much of the zoning needs to be revisited," she said. "When we give the Building Department a complaint about zoning, they'll turn around and say they have to do things by the books."

Lacking the ability to take official action, community members say they will be diligent in their opposition and do their best to monitor the developments closely.

"We'll make sure that what they do, they do correctly. We'll stay on top of that," Martino-Fisher said.

Reach Reporter Dan Trudeau by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 173.

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