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Little Neck, Douglaston target of anti-zoning fliers

But some zoning advocates say several anonymous fliers distributed to homeowners amount to scare tactics, including one that claimed 90 percent of homes would be "too large for any future home improvement, remodeling [or] repairs" under the new R2A zoning designation.Although there is a vocal group of rezoning opponents-many who identify themselves as architects or engineers and have appeared at recent civic and community board meetings-no one has come forward to take credit for the fliers. One purports to be from a group called Concerned Residents of Little Neck/Douglaston, but it is not a known organization.City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), chairman of the Council's zoning committee who spearheaded the rezoning of Bayside, College Point and Whitestone in 2005, called the fliers "another pretty disgraceful example of the very despicable people who are spreading this misinformation."Avella said that in response to concerns from residents, he has been going door-to-door in Little Neck and Douglaston to inform people and answer questions about the proposed changes.The new R2A zoning, designed to curb large houses known as "McMansions" being built on normal-size lots, places additional restrictions on the floor area and total building height allowed for single-family detached homes.It also removes certain exemptions that exist in the R2 zones, such as permitting an entire ground floor to be removed from counting toward the building's total bulk if the floor contains a garage. Under R2A, only the garage space would be exempt.Opponents of the R2A argue that the zone is too restrictive and keeps homeowners from expanding their existing houses. Chris Petallides, president of the Queens chapter of the Society of Professional Engineers, said his study of a portion of Little Neck - bounded by Northern Boulevard to the north, the city line to the east, the Long Island Expressway to the south and Alley Pond Park to the west - found that 90 percent of the homes would be unable to expand under R2A."I think some residents are taking it upon themselves to make sure that that doesn't happen in the Little Neck area because they feel that it's not appropriate," he said.Petallides said petitions have been circulated to stop the rezoning or at least leave certain areas untouched. The opposition has prompted the City Planning Department to hold off on certifying the rezoning application - originally slated for December - and build a consensus."They want to do the right thing by the community, so now they're holding their horses," he said.Civic leaders who have long supported the rezoning said they are continuing to educate people about the plan to allow residents to make their own decisions."Our purpose is to inform the community and not to mislead them as other phantom groups have been doing," said Eliott Socci, president of the Douglaston Civic Association, who is planning an open meeting with City Planning officials in January.The effort to reach a consensus on the proposal is being hindered by the anonymous fliers carrying dire warnings about declining property values and restrictions on renovations."This isn't just misinformation anymore," Avella said. "This is blatant lies."Bob Nobile, president of the Little Neck Pines Civic Association, said his group is planning on sending a mailing to some homeowners in the affected areas to counter the anti-rezoning fliers."They're using scare tactics and it's like blockbusting," he said. "It's really unfair."After the City Planning Department certifies the plan, the community board offers a recommendation and the borough president weighs in. After that, the City Planning Commission reviews the proposal, and final approval is up the City Council and the mayor.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 188.

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