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The Civic Scene: As feared in ‘89, civics’ only recourse on zoning issues is court

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Their fears are only too evident these days as the BSA, or Board of Standards and Appeals, a small body of individuals, makes decisions which permit builders to circumvent the zoning laws which have been passed to protect the quality of life in residential communities. The BSA hears cases brought up from the Community Boards and the borough presidents. Even if the community board and then the borough president vote that the builder is wrong and should not have the right to build a large building on a particular lot, the BSA can still vote for it.Now, the only recourse is to sue to prove that the BSA was wrong. This was the fear which civic leaders expressed in 1989. They feared a costly court case which a builder would just add on to the cost of a building but which a civic association would have a hard time funding. Back in 1989, officials said that if the system doesn't work, they could change it .... well, Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has a bill which would allow appeal of these decisions to an elected body but it languishes in committee. Avella is too much "of the people," and viewed as being too much like the civic associations he sprang from, so some power brokers don't like him.The Kissena Park Civic Association, Inc. decided to sue because it was lucky to obtain the services of the Garden City office of a New York City law firm, pro bono, or free. This is a R2 one-family zone. The property has an irregular trapezoidal shape. The owner tried to get permission to build a dental clinic which was rejected by the BSA, then a two-family house which was also rejected and finally passed by the BSA because the owner would suffer "economic damage" if this was only a one-family building, because of the excessive street frontage, street noise and the cost of building.This "economic damage" excuse is often used after a speculator spends a lot of money on a property. It is like a person who murders his or her parents and then wants to be treated like a poor orphan.The Holliswood Civic Association, Inc. is fighting similar problems. The civic spent years to have the community rezoned to prevent excessively large buildings, especially after a builder took down a house and built seven attached row houses on the lot. The BSA keeps supporting the builders. Of course, one must realize that a same group of lawyers and similar reptiles exist who lobby the BSA to permit the speculators despoil our fine residential communities. Holliswood is a spectacular community with large houses on large plots with majestic old trees and winding streets mostly without sidewalks. Sometimes you come to a corner with a small island with a tree growing on it. This type of community doesn't need attached row houses with concrete sidewalks with garbage and recycling cans on them.The zoning committee of Community Board 8 just heard an appeal by a builder who kept building after the community was rezoned down from R5 to R4A in the Jamaica Hill Community Association. The builder, Parvez Chowdhury, doing business as Hamida Realty of Albertson, L.I., wanted to build two houses on the lot. He didn't think the rejection by the Department of Buildings really meant anything, just a technicality. Now he has spent $500,000 pouring his foundations. Is he claiming "economic hardship?" What will the BSA say? The Jamaica Hill civic just rezoned its community to prevent the construction of out-of-character large brick and concrete structures, with paved-over lawns with cars on them, no grass, garbage and recycling cans sitting in front of each house out in the open and walls going up to the sky... here in Queens. This whole issue was discussed at the Jan. 30 Queens Civic Congress meeting. The Queens Civic Congress tries to help member civic associations which are having similar problems. It cautions civic leaders to have photos taken of the property by a professional at various dates to document what was built and when and to obtain professional assistance. These speculators hire expediters to help them ...the civic must, also. Where is Councilman Avella's law?GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEKOften the U. S. Congress members can submit a bill to provide some structure or program the state or district needs. Regretfully, Congress is addicted to "pork" and wastes money on projects that are not really needed, as a way to provide jobs or fancy things in a district. The number of "pork" projects rose from 10 in 1982 to 150 in 1987 and now to 6,300 in 2005. We don't need $500,000 for Arctic Winter Games, $500,000 for an outdoor grade-school teaching project in Boswell, Pa., $3,850,000 for the Intrepid Air Space Foundation in Manhattan, $4.4 million for a technology center at Missouri State University, etc.There is a proposal that each bill should be voted for directly and not tucked into a defense or other important bill. We are waging a global war against fanatics and should not be wasting money on "pork." If a project is so necessary, then let there be an open discussion and a vote. Do you know what our national federal total debt plus our annual debt plus our trade deficit debts are? Why are not some of these wasteful bills vetoed?

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