Community Board 10 approved a variance with conditions last week to change the use of a South Ozone Park building so it could legally house non-governmental offices.
The building at 115-49 118th St. is currently occupied by a mortgage broker and real estate offices, but has been "operated illegally for five years," according to CB 10 Vice Chairman John Marus.
The structure is designated for governmental offices, where it was used by the city Department of Education.
Although the building's owner believed the DOE would be using offices there forever, according to Mitchell Ross, who was representing the owner at CB 10's meeting, the agency did not renew its lease in 1991.
The building was later sold and a mortgage broker and real estate management office moved in despite those uses not being listed under the certificate of occupancy.
Ross said a variance is needed to change the use of the building from governmental offices to non-governmental offices.
The 2-1/2-story building has one vacant floor, but Ross said he envisions offices moving in.
"We think that the use that we would like to have there now... is not really very different" than the current setup, Ross said.
Marus noted that the building is in a residential district and the community's desire should be taken into account.
"We have to be concerned and sensitive to the needs of the people who live there," he said.
One of the points of contention was what he called a "distracting sign" advertising businesses at the building on Lefferts Boulevard "that lights up at night," Marus said.
CB 10 Chairwoman Betty Braton said "the type of sign that is there now" is "totally unacceptable."
Marus also said the building could be used for bakeries, barbershops, beauty parlors, drugstores, supermarkets and liquor stores all establishments that would be unacceptable to the community.
But Ross said any of those businesses are not part of the building's plans.
"The only proposed use is office use," he said.
CB 10 approved the variance in a voice vote on condition that the sign be removed in exchange for "a simpler one" and that the building only be used for offices.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2008 Community News Group
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