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The development on 167th Street was ordered to halt by the city Department of Buildings last February because the planned pair of identical three-family semi-detached homes did not conform to the neighborhood's zoning laws, which were changed in October 2004 to limit residences to one- and two-family detached homes. The agency also said one of the site's foundations was poured without a permit.But the property owner claims that both foundations were in before the restrictive zoning change and, while admitting to pouring one illegally, said it was due to an error by the DOB, which asked for a site safety plan when such a requirement is normally only issued for much larger projects. The DOB eventually removed the requirement and issued the permit, but not until after the rezoning was passed.The board, which approved the builder's application by a 26 to 14 vote at its Feb. 8 meeting, seemed to agree that the blame lay more with the Buildings Department than with the developer."Had they not made the mistake, the permit would've probably been granted and everything would have been copacetic," CB 8 Chairman Alvin Warshaviak said.Warshaviak gave another reason for the board's support: that the developer, Parvez Choudhury, of Long Island, was doing a community service by reverting an "alleged drug den" into a respectable family residence.Others were not so forgiving, saying the developer knowingly poured the foundation illegally in order to pre-empt the coming zoning change."He knows what the game is and deliberately flaunted the law to get to an end," said Kevin Forrestal, a board member who voted against the application at both the full board meeting and the CB 8 committee hearing Jan. 30, where a narrow 5-to-4 majority voted down the proposal.Jamaica Hill Civic Association President Deborah Ayala took her frustration as far as to suggest instituting term limits for board members.Ayala's civic had recommended that the developer change the homes to two-family rather than three-family. The developer's lawyer, Jordan Most, has said that would be a financial hardship for his client.Another to disagree with the board's vote was the Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella organization representing more than 100 civic associations in the borough. In a letter to the city Board of Standards and Appeals, where the application will eventually be heard, the Congress' president, Sean Walsh, said "it is important for BSA to recognize that the rush to completion and the financial gain to the applicants has far-reaching implications on other projects."Warshaviak himself noted the unusualness of the decision, saying the board normally supports the community over the builder."But that's the beauty of the board," he said. "They do see both sides of the picture."Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2006 Community Newspaper Group
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