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Dishing With Dee: What’s wrong with McMansions, anyway?

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The other Tuesday evening the Queens Chapter of the American Institute of Architects held its meeting in the chapel in Fort Totten to discuss the new zoning laws. Apparently the new zoning laws are not the Nirvana they were purported to be. There are many problems bubbling up to the surface as well as many unanswered questions beneath the surface. One point that was brought up was the 30 percent footprint your house and garage could occupy on your property. As most of the housing stock in this area is in the vintage category, most have, as well as large houses on large lots, equally large free-standing garages, usually at the end of a long driveway. This makes the majority of them out of compliance.The busy-body brigade has now created a whole other set of problems. If the homeowners at this time are forced to demolish their pre-existing garages, it will cost them thousands of dollars. In that event, where will they park their cars? Our streets are already obsolete in their ability to provide on-street parking. You have cars circling around looking for parking spaces as it is. If you do not have to remove your garage now, you or the new owner will have to do so when the property changes hands. In essence, you have now given a prospective buyer a bargaining chip, and this will cost the homeowner additional monies they were counting on a part of their retirement plan. The proponents of the new zoning laws say they are only doing it to prevent the proliferation of McMansions, but think about it. What they are trying to do is force their taste in housing on people whose property they do not own. I have lived in this area for more than 50 years. At that time the entire neighborhood was comprised of what would be considered McMansions today. Albeit, they were of different architectural styles. During that 50 years we witnessed the construction of attached houses 20 feet wide, ranch houses of 40 feet wide, high ranches on 60 by 100 foot lots, as well a proliferation of apartment houses that were either rentals, condos, or co-ops and a sprinkling of garden apartments. None of these styles existed in the area 50 years ago.The hue and cry of the residents at the time was "if we let this happen, it will ruin our neighborhood and destroy the aesthetic beauty and character of it. This new type of housing will not conform to what is in existence now!" Does that sound familiar? If the old-timers were able to enforce their desires at that time, none of the present-day complainers would be living here. In spite of the cries of "Henny Penny, the sky is falling," everyone managed to get along and live in peace and harmony in one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Queens.The patchwork quilt effect of all the different types and styles of architecture is what makes the neighborhood interesting. Who wants to live in a Levittown type of environment or as some wag put it, "the politicians are trying to create an Avella Town." Remember, periodically tastes change, not only in clothing and personal possessions but in architectural styles. In this neighborhood we have Victorian, Queen Anne, colonial, English tudor, and post-war modern. What's wrong with adding the new vogue, McMansions? We're sure when the automobile was introduced many naysayers objected to that new form of transportation and would have preferred instead to keep horses and buggies. A change of subject: We attended another lecture in the new Parkway Hospital series. This one was on the topic of Alzheimer's and dementia. It was the best-attended seminar to date. It seems with our life expectancies ever increasing, we or our loved ones are more prone to being affected by these two diseases.According to Dr. Robert Acqino, the CEO of the new Parkway Hospital, Forest Hills, the Queens senior citizen population is growing faster than in any other borough. The Hospital Closing Commission is looking at closing beds in order to save money despite the fact that Queens is already under bedded. There is a very significant shortage of psychiatric hospital beds.The most significant problem for Queens is the cost of medical malpractice insurance and all the bureaucratic problems dealing with HMOs. While more patients are joining various HMO programs every year, the number of physicians in Queens has been decreasing every year, thereby forcing many Queens patients to leave the borough for tertiary care. The end result is that Queens hospitals are going up on the selling block, including Mary Immaculate and St. John's. St. Joseph's closed a year ago. Many of our local hospitals are in danger of doing the same due to a severe lack of financial aid and the slowness of Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals.Borough President Helen Marshall is conducting her own study and vows to prevent even one more hospital closing. It is a serious problem that affects us all. Contact your local politicians to see what they can do to keep Parkway and our other local hospitals solvent and serving the local community. We need them!That's it for this week; we look forward to receiving you voice mails at 718-767-6484, your faxes at 718-746-0066 and your e-mails at deerrichard@aol.com Till next week, Dee

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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