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Hunters Pt. rezoning set for City Council review

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In the works for nearly two years, the Department of City Planning design reworks 43 blocks of mostly industrial space in Long Island City, lifting restrictions on new commercial and residential projects, said John Young, director of the Queens office of City Planning.Speaking during a public hearing held by the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, he said the rezoning should create 300 housing units over the next decade and stimulate the neighborhood with new supermarkets, restaurants, artists' studios and cafes. He said the mixed-use plan, which the City Council was scheduled to consider Thursday, Aug. 12, strikes a "fine-grained" balance between growth and industrial preservation.But detractors said it does too little to protect the rezoning area's light industry, which a City Planning survey said comprises 890 jobs in 26 firms that range from elevator parts manufacturers to Broadway stage designers."Today the city is our enemy in its process of rezoning and eliminating manufacturing spaces," said Ernie Smith, president of Penn & Fletcher, an embroidery designer just north of the rezoning area. "The city is chasing manufacturers away."Long Island City is a safe haven for manufacturers, he said, with its access to major transportation routes and proximity to Manhattan. His business fled the Lower West Side in 2000, when the light industrial area was usurped as office spaces for trendy computer companies.Now his new home "has become a smorgasbord for real estate speculators," he said in a statement prepared for the hearing. "I fear that our company will be forced to move again." That is why the rezoning proposal should include an industrial employment district, which would reduce pressure on owners to sell to developers, said Adam Friedman, director of the New York Industrial Retention Network, a non-profit manufacturers advocate.Job protection and residential growth are not clashing goals, he said, but the proposal favors the former over the latter. An employment district would allow the neighborhood to have both. City Councilman Eric Gioia (D-Sunnyside) agreed that it was important to protect manufacturing jobs, but he said City Planning should devise a five-borough plan to preserve the city's industrial space. The Hunters Point rezoning, he said, struck a fine balance."I do think it's a good compromise," he said, later adding that "it's hard to please everyone all the time."But in an attempt to do just that, the Planning Department has held several public hearings on the proposal, refining it several times.And at the councilman's urging Monday, the department agreed to study more residential zoning within the block between 47th and 48th avenues, a move some locals said would make their area more competitive.The 43 blocks are in the southwest portion of Community District 2, bounded by 2nd, 5th and 11th streets on the west; 47th Avenue, 46th Road and 44th Drive on the north; Jackson Avenue and Sunnyside Yard on the east; and Borden Avenue and the Queens Midtown Tunnel on the south.He said the latest plan protects the three- and four-story residential buildings in the mid-blocks and encourages residential and mixed-used developments in higher densities along wide streets near public transportation lines.Reach reporter Matthew Monks at 718-229-0300 ext. 156 or by email at news@timesledger.com

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