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City okays Dutch Kills rezone curb on hotels

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After a last−minute modification, the Dutch Kills rezone is a go. The City Council approved the measure Tuesday, likely putting an end to the hotel boom many complained was destroying the neighborhood.

Hotel developers were rushing to construct the foundations of their towers — thus “grandfathering in” the buildings — in the weeks before the new zoning rules curtailed maximum building heights in many areas of the 40−block district.

“The good news is that the rezoning has finally passed, and this will mean, I hope, the end of hotels,” said City Councilman Eric Gioia (D−Sunnyside). “The bad news is, I was disappointed that they weren’t outright banning hotels.”

The new modification to the plan increases the maximum floor−area ratio in certain areas, allowing buildings to be 70 feet tall and appeasing some manufacturers and business owners worried that the rezoning would severely curtail their ability to expand.

“Very few manufacturers had any input in the process,” said Eric Palatnik, an attorney representing many Dutch Kills businesses at last week’s public hearing. “This map doesn’t reflect their interests.”

The entire area was previously zoned for manufacturing, harkening back to a time when the city was trying to encourage an industrial resurgence in the area. What it got in recent years was a number of developers trying to build hotels 12 stories and higher before the zoning change went through.

“It looks like Dubai in the middle of this nice, middle−class community,” said Dutch Kills resident Megan Friedman at a public hearing last Thursday.

The rezoning reduces the manufacturing zoning to M1−2 in most areas, which effectively reduces the maximum height manufacturers are allowed to build. It also allows for residential development in the neighborhood again, a use that was eliminated in a 1961 rezone and which has only been allowed through a special permit process since 1989.

Zoning Committee Chairman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) said the last−minute changes were possible because of a convenient schedule.

City Planning already was having a review session Monday, so the application could be examined then before the scheduled Council vote, he said. “Any other time it wouldn’t have worked out and it would have been delayed.”

The rezoning was championed by the Dutch Kills Civic Association and approved by Community Board 1.

“Every community in New York City is screaming for downzoning,” said George Stamatiades, executive director of the Dutch Kills civic. “We’re screaming for upzoning. We were condemned to death in 1961.”

The new zoning does not include a specific ban on hotel construction, however.

“Why have you not come up with a better way to prevent hotel development?” Gioia asked during last Thursday’s public hearing.

“We have to look at the precedents,” said Queens Planning Director John Young. “In no part of the city have we prevented development of hotels the way you’re suggesting.”

Instead, the allowed residential use will encourage developers to produce apartments, Young said, noting the city anticipates 190 units of affordable housing will be produced along the higher−density corridor on Northern Boulevard within the next decade.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e−mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 154.

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