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The Civic Scene: Bid to change zoning bypasses boro groups

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The regressive proposals by the AlA had been submitted to the Department of City Planning and 60 days ago the clock started on the ULURP, or Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. Community boards were supposed to hold hearings during this period to determine the community's views for or against these zoning changes.The problem was that community boards were never notified about the proposed zoning text changes, but as several found out about them they met, discussed the ideas and voted against them. Some of these people came to Queens to support Avella's request that the AlA withdraw its proposals and then meet with civic umbrella groups, like the Queens Civic Congress, to see if a compromise could be reached. If not, the councilman threatened to vote against the changes as chairman of the Zoning Committee of the City Council.The AlA's proposals would permit larger buildings on corner lots, allow multi-family buildings on small lots in R6-R10 areas known as moderate or high-density districts and similar commercially zoned areas, allow rear dormers in rear setbacks and allow taller buildings in R6-R10 areas, amend bulkhead rules, and allow for a waiver of side yard requirements in R3-1, R3-2, R4 and R5 residential districts through a special permit issued by the Board of Standards and Appeals. People in one-family houses have to be careful because there are higher density districts in their neighborhoods.These proposals would negate many zoning changes that civic associations have fought for and obtained or are still trying to obtain. Civics want to downzone, not upzone. Civics are concerned that land is being built over and paved over or bricked over so grass, flower beds, bushes and tress are lost. While the mayor wants to add one million trees, builders are cutting down fine mature trees. There are now fewer areas where rainwater can seep into the ground so there are more floods when there is a heavy rain. Green vegetation absorbs C02 and is soothing and relaxing as opposed to cement and brick surfaces, which get hot in the summer.It is ironic that while these secret zoning changes were being circulated, there were zoning changes that were just discussed by all community boards. They propose to keep adequate back, side and front yards with more green lawns and flower beds. The two sets of zoning proposals are contradictory. And we thought that the Department of Building was dysfunctional! Yet the Queens Department of City Planning did help us rezone our community down to the R2A highly residential district and the DOB has made some changes, which might be good for our quality of life if they work.Those proposals to let the Board of Standards and Appeals issue waivers to let side yards be smaller, houses be bigger and lawns become smaller is a no no. The BSA is now being used by speculators to evade the zoning laws which are there to protect our quality of life. Builders know how to get around the zoning laws by using the BSA. They submit a variance to the zoning rules, usually because they are "losing money." They then attend the executive session of the BSA and if they hear that the variance may be turned down, they pull it from consideration. Now there is no record of this kind of variance being turned down and they can try again another day. The builders use the BSA as their way to change zoning without a public ULURP.It is sad that the civic leaders and the homeowners and tenants who want a decent quality of life may have to spend time and energy fighting these sneak zoning changes by the architects who already have a bad rap because they self-certify for unscrupulous builders who then build what is not on the plans approved by the DOB.GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Borrowing of money is sometimes necessary, but the unsavory practices of giving out loans has created a credit crisis and false bubble which is causing problems all over the world. Who said we don't need regulations?

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