The project was slapped with a stop-work order last February because it did not conform to the neighborhood's recently changed zoning laws. But the developer claims the foundations for the pair of identical three-family semi-detached homes on 167th Street were laid before the Oct. 13, 2004 zoning change limited Jamaica Hill to one and two-family detached homes. His attorney, Jordan Most, who spoke at Monday's Community Board 8 committee hearing in Jamaica Hill, said the developer, Parvez Choudhury, of Long Island, also already had permits by December 2004 that allowed for work to continue even though the rezoning had passed two months before."This is a project that commenced before the change," Most said at the public hearing at Parsons Junior High.DOB spokeswoman Ilyse Fink said that back in 2004 the agency would not be informed of a zoning change until months after it happened. That is no longer the case, she said.Most did concede that construction on the lots at 87-30 and 87-32 resumed illegally for a time without a permit -- a reason why some residents and zoning committee members ultimately rejected the request to finish the development."I'd be far more sympathetic to this plight if the law was followed," said board member Kevin Forrestal, who was one of the five out a nine-member committee to vote down the application.Most, however, insisted that the permit was denied due to a glitch at the DOB that required one of the houses to have a site safety plan, which is normally only required for much larger projects. The Buildings Department eventually removed the requirement and issued the permit, but not before the rezoning was passed.Fink admitted the error but said it could have been reconciled within a day and would not have caused a two-month delay. Most also said the developer was unaware of the zoning change.While some sided with the owner, especially for replacing drug- and prostitute-ridden buildings with new family homes, others did not believe that he missed the news of the rezoning and contended that he worked illegally on the site in order to finish the foundations before the change took effect."They'd have to be living under a rock to not know," said Jamaica Hill Civic Association President Deborah Ayola.A man next her, Sam Rodriguez, then stood up and at one point held out a dollar bill saying "this is all that motivates them."Those who backed the developer sought to forgive the illegal work and allow him to finish what was already 85 percent complete."It's very easy to sit with someone who hasn't spent all that money and say 'tear it down,'" said board member Ahmed Dilafroz, referring to the $500,000 that the project would cost.In the end, five committee members voted against the application and four voted in favor. The issue now heads to a full CB 8 vote Feb. 8. If it is turned down there, the matter will go before the Board of Standards and Appeals without the backing of the board.Reach reporter Zach Pataberg at news@times
©2006 Community News Group
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