As in many Queens communities, residents of Jamaica Hills are comfortable and used to living in one-family homes appropriate for an R2 community, but the area was originally zoned in 1961 for R3-2, R4 and R5 development. The problem of increased development surfaced when builders bought homes, tore them down and started to construct two- or three-family homes that loomed over the original homes on the block. Only 24 of the developed lots had semi-detached or attached homes.At the community board meeting about 20 people signed up to speak during a one-minute time slot per person. The first speaker argued that he should have more time, claiming that he didn't know the hearing was going to take place. It seems that someone had circulated a flyer saying that the value of the homes would go down if the area were downzoned. People started yelling at each other.Some of the civics shouted that new immigrants are buying the houses and building larger to either sell to new immigrants who wanted two or three families to live on the lot as speculators or people who just wanted to live there. Others argued against the downzoning, saying that there are many new people in Queens who need places to live. The members of the civic argued that there are few parking spaces in the area and larger homes will make the parking crunch worse.An excessive amount of people bring in more cars, noise, auto pollution, garbage and recycling, as well as the loss of greenery and a lower quality of life. Too many people inundate the infrastructure and overcrowd the schools.To get the hearing started, a compromise was worked out to have three people give up their minute and let the first speaker have that time. After all the speakers were through, CB 8 voted to downzone the neighborhood. The issue was to then go to the Borough President Helen Marshall's office for her suggestions. The City Planning Commission will next hold a hearing, and the City Council has the final say.There was so much yelling that prior to the speaking compromise someone had called the police, who arrived after the issue had been settled. It is sad that sometimes groups of people move into a neighborhood, some who are illegal aliens, and build legal or illegal apartments that ruin the quality of life in the area. People have to keep talking, understand the zoning rules and know that the community at large will fight to maintain a good quality of life.At the same meeting of CB 8 there were three resolutions, all advisory, concerning the Queens Hospital Center, where there is a lot of empty land or buildings that could be reused. The problem is that the area is surrounded by the Hillcrest Estates Civic Association, where single-family homeowners are sandwiched by the pressures of the St. John's University campus to the east and the Queens Hospital Center to the west.While these community facilities provide a service, they also put pressure on homeowners and tenants. One of the biggest problems imposed is the impact on area roads by increased automobiles, which clog streets, block driveway access and bring noise at all hours of the day and night as well as leave trash and oil spots in their wake. Although the hospital and university provide parking for a fee, some people don't want to pay so they park on the streets.At this meeting there were three proposals that would add beds to and give the Margaret Teitz Nursing Home one of the buildings. There had been discussion at previous meetings. CB 8 voted to pass the proposals. Although not voted on during the meeting, there is a proposal to build an 800-seat school for the Gateway High School in Briarwood. Residents along the northern perimeter of the hospital are concerned about parking on their streets and already have held demonstrations in opposition to the plan.Good and bad news of the weekCommunity facilities can be good but they can also negatively impact on a local residential community.
©2004 Community News Group
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