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Downtown Jamaica plan rezones 2 miles of Hillside

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The Jamaica Estates Civic Association has been outspoken about its displeasure with the plan, but other neighborhoods would also be affected. The western edge of the plan rezones the northern side of Hillside Avenue, which forms the southern boundary of Briarwood and Jamaica Hill, and would allow developers to put up residential buildings as tall as 12 stories. Deborah Ayala of the Jamaica Hill Community Association said, "There's a positive side and a negative side. The negative side includes public transportation, sewage, brownouts. We've got a lot of infrastructure problems but we need to tweak what we have." She mentioned that an old law would allow Parsons Boulevard to be widened, cutting into existing front yards.Ayala stressed that the affordable housing component would create space for entry-level workers. "Take two parents making $28,000 and two kids, that's $56,000, $57,000 [the ceiling price for affordable housing]. Affordable housing is not Section 8, it's not shantytowns."John Young, director of the Queens Borough City Planning Office, spoke about the plan and fielded questions at the meeting on Jan. 8. For Hillside Avenue, at least, the rezoning process will involve give-and-take with the community-which is not necessarily the case for the rest of the redevelopment footprint.Ayala plans to work with City Planning to find a solution. "You can't put straight R7X all along the avenue. It's inundating the community with one particular zone going all the way across. Contextually it's not good, but you could put in lesser zones and still allow for affordable housing. We've got to work with it, fix the plan and go forward, and allow for some higher density," she said.When one man at the meeting asked whether the city would make use of eminent domain along Hillside Avenue, Young responded "on Hillside, definitively no."City Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) said he has hired urban planning consultant Paul Graziano to advise him on the matter. He reminded the audience at the rally that the rezoning will affect not only his constituents but those of neighboring districts."It's not just this civic. I'm collaborating with [City Councilmen] David Weprin (D-Hollis) and Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Community Boards 8 and 12. City Planning is trying to do the biggest rezoning the city has ever had to do," Gennaro said."Everyone loves downzoning, but nobody loves upzoning," he reminded the audience at the rally.Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

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