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Rezoning leaves Baysiders in middle of renovations

Earlier this year, Tom Zafiris decided to expand his residence of 10 years on 28th Avenue at 216th Street with plans to add an additional floor to his high ranch for another bedroom. On March 31, his permit for expansion was approved by the city's Department of Buildings. Construction began immediately on April 1, Zafiris said. Eleven days later, the massive downzoning of Bayside created the city's strictest building restrictions in a measure passed by the City Council that immediately became law on April 12. On May 6, Zafiris said, the Department of Buildings came knocking on his door with a stop-work order because his renovation plans were now non-compliant with the new zoning regulations for his neighborhood, a development he said no one informed him about before he embarked on his $100,000 renovations."If I knew about it, I would have been compliant," Zafiris said, adding that his architect was not informed of the imminent rezoning implications before he embarked on the renovations either.A Department of Buildings spokeswoman confirmed that the Bayside rezoning also affected ongoing renovations, but she noted that the stop-work orders were based on individual cases."When there is a downzoning, as part of the process the department will do a run of the permits that have been obtained because if you go to the zoning resolution, alterations were also affected," said spokeswoman Ilyse Fink. The rezoning's primary sponsor, City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), said he was caught off guard at the required status of alterations under the new laws."I was surprised to find out that the zoning law requires almost complete completion of alterations," Avella said, adding that he was assisting five homeowners who contacted his office after they were issued stop-work orders.While Avella said he was planning to meet with the Department of Buildings about what he called "inconsistencies" in the zoning policy, he said the professionals involved with building homes ought to be aware of potential changes to zoning."It's incumbent upon the architect to be aware of what's going on, and for the real estate agent to be aware. These rezonings are not secrets. They're widely publicized," Avella said. "There's a six- to seven-month public review process."Zafiris, whose addition now sports holes where windows should be and blue tarp where a roof should be, is waiting for either the Department of Buildings to give him the green light, or he will have to file for a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals to finish the job. "I'm not sure what city agency fumbled on this, but someone had the responsibility to notify the architects," Zafiris said. "Now we're caught in between."Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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