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Queensboro Hill residents slam city rezone proposal

It was standing room only inside the Lang Auditorium at New York Hospital Queens last Thursday, where many of the opponents to the rezoning wielded red signs that read "We Oppose.""The problem is, I don't know if I want to convert my house now, but later on, I want to have the option," said Anthony Demaio, a 33-year resident of Booth Memorial Avenue who lives in a single-family home. "It's not a character thing. It's an economic thing."City Planning wants to change the zoning on his block from R4, a general residence district that allows for high-density garden apartments, row houses, semi-detached and detached houses, to R2A, a designation that was created when Bayside was rezoned last year to allow only for single-family, detached homes. New recommendations from the city include slicing up the neighborhood into eight different zoning designations, as opposed to the existing three. The main thrust of the opposition stemmed from those residing in the R4 area, which is proposed to be downzoned to R2A.City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) organized the meeting after residents approached him with complaints that the city has overlooked their concerns. Some even went as far as to say the city is discriminating against the increasingly dominant Asian population of the area.The city has attempted to quell fears of the rezonings by saying that the 105 blocks of Queensboro Hill, once rezoned, will be protected from overdevelopment. Future construction would have to comply with what is already there, said John Young, director of the Queens City Planning office."This will create predictable change so we know what's to come," Young said. "It offers provisions for change while still offering protections for community character."But most at the meeting said it was too restrictive and the attempts to curb overdevelopment are too little and too late."Suppose in the future, I want to convert to a two-family home," said Demaio. "Now I can't, yet there's six houses on my block right now that are two-family. Why can't we make it one and two-family zoning like everybody else? We wouldn't even need this meeting."His comment sent cheers through the crowd.Young said he would relay that information back to City Planning, which is expected to vote on the plans on Jan. 26.Others, like George McRae, have already submitted plans to the city to convert a single-family home to a two-family home, and if the rezoning passes as planned, he said the project would have to be scrapped."We'll have to wait and see," he said. "Hopefully, there's a middle of the road they could follow. This is overkill."Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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