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The proposal is now pending approval from the Department of City Planning and the City Council, which is expected by the end of summer.
"We're keeping it one- and two-family detached homes. That's what this neighborhood is and that's what we'd like it to stay," Deborah Ayala, vice president of the Jamaica Hill Community Association said.
Under the plan, the 28 blocks bounded in the north by Grand Central Parkway and 82nd Avenue, Homelawn Street in the east, Hillside Avenue in the south and 168th and 166th streets to the west would be affected by the effort aimed at having the zoning better reflect the neighborhood, which is mainly comprised of one- and two- family detached houses.
Jamaica Hill now has five different zones, which fall into two categories: all residence types - known as R3-2, R4 and R5 zones - and one and two detached-family residences - R3X and R4A. Should the proposal be adopted, all R3-2, R4 and R5 zones would be converted to either R3X or R4A zones, decreasing the neighborhood's overall population. According to the Department of City Planning, 47 percent of homes in Jamaica Hill fall under R3X or R4A zones.
Kristen Schepp, also an executive member of the Jamaica Hill Community Association echoed Ayala. "All we're trying to do is have the zoning match the houses that are out there right now," she said.
City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said he supported the community's initiative on the issue.
"The community belongs to the people. They should have the zoning that they want," Gennaro said. "They are entitled to ... chart a future for their community that makes sense for them. They can chart their own zoning destiny and how they want their community to develop or not to develop as they see fit, as they wish."
For some, the proposal is appealing because it would not strain the existing infrastructure.
"The neighborhood wouldn't be as dense. The schools wouldn't be as crowded perhaps. The sanitation wouldn't be overloaded. The sewers and the water system wouldn't be overloaded," Community Board 8 District Manager Diane Cohen said.
Cohen also noted that some may oppose the plan because it limits the number of buildings that can be built. "There's always a pro and a con," she said.
Opposition has been limited, however. The final vote of the community board at the public hearing held July 14 was 26-2 in favor of the proposal. Ayala said there have been complaints about the publicity surrounding the proposal, causing some to vote against it.
"We've been in enough newspaper and on TV about this rezoning project. It's been so highly publicized that you'd have to be living under a rock to know it didn't exist," Ayala said, adding the Jamaica Hill Community Association has been working on this for the last four years.
Marshall said she gave the Jamaica Hills rezoning plan the go-ahead Monday.
"My Queens zoning task force is working very hard to preserve our low-density neighborhoods," she said in a statement. "There are plenty of other areas that are appropriate for multi-family dwellings and apartment buildings."
Buildings existing prior to the implementation of the proposal will remain, having been granted grandfather status and thereby exempt from any zoning changes.
"People are afraid to come out. They are afraid that what they've already done to their houses will have to be redone," said Schepp.
The rezoning is part of a bigger move by the city, which will preserve the character of neighborhoods that were last rezoned in 1961, City Planning spokeswoman Rachel Raynoff said.
"We are proceeding to evaluate certain neighborhoods that are at risk and Jamaica Hill is one of these that we are working on along with other neighborhoods."
Reach editorial assistant Jennifer Misthal by e-mail at email@example.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 7172.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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