City unveils SE Flushing rezone plans

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Cheers and jeers rang through the Flushing Hospital auditorium as the Department of City Planning officially unveiled its plans for the long-awaited Waldheim rezoning to a packed house of more than 100 people last Thursday.

Queens City Planning Director John Young opened the town hall-style meeting by detailing plans to rezone about 1,000 lots on 44 blocks in southeastern Flushing that he called "a fine-grained approach" to preserving the character of the neighborhood while accounting for expected growth.

Before Young could finish his presentation, however, he was interrupted by several vocal opponents of the plan.

"What I'm hearing is so completely different from reality," Flushing resident Bill Jamois called out.

Jamois contended the single-family homes that line much of the area have already been denigrated by the city's lack of action in the past and said the current plan would only serve to continue that pattern as residential towers are constructed to meet downtown Flushing's booming demand.

"You want to preserve that? I don't want to preserve that, I want it changed," Jamois said. "You made it hell here."

While a rezoning of the southeast Flushing neighborhood has been discussed for more than a decade, the meeting was the first to present City Planning's final proposal to the community. City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) moderated the event and said he hopes the plan will go before the City Council for approval within the next year.

The area proposed for rezoning is roughly bordered by Sanford Avenue to the north, 45th Avenue to the south, 156th Street to the east and Kissena Boulevard to the west, although small sections also extend out to Colden Avenue.

The bulk of the proposal would change a large swath of land currently zoned as R3-2 residential zoning and change it to R3X.

R3-2 zoning, widely used across the city's small, residential neighborhoods, provides extensive flexibility to builders by allowing a multitude of housing types, including single-family detached homes, low-rise attached homes and multi-family apartment houses. R3X, meanwhile, is far more restrictive, allowing only one- and two-family detached homes.

While opposition to the plan at the meeting was extremely vocal, several residents and groups, such as the Waldheim Neighborhood Association, came out to support the plan.

"They are allowing us to maintain what we came to Flushing for," said Rosie Trotto.

Some of the strongest opposition came from the Holly Civic Association, whose neighborhood organization borders buffer and in some cases enter the rezoning area. The Holly Civic blasted the plan and its supporters because it would allow for denser residential zoning in an area already beset by large residential towers.

"Be consistent with your conviction," Holly Civic Vice President Dorothy Woo said. "I hope you agree our area needs protecting, too."

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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