The Douglaston Civic Association, which bused about 25 members to the meeting, and Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), expressed their strong dissatisfaction with both the developer's downsized proposal and his assertion that anything smaller is not financially viable."They basically said 'no,' from everything I know," said Paul Graziano, an independent urban planner who is acting as a DCA consultant in the case. Although he did not personally attend the hearing, Graziano said he was informed that the BSA was displeased with the developer's decision to present an R6 plan -room for a four-story 34-unit apartment complex -instead of R 3-2 options -or -space for about seven townhouse units -- that it was asked to come up with.Joshua Rinesmith, counsel for the developer with the Manhattan-based law firm Sheldon Lobel, did not return phone calls seeking comment about the stance of the developer, identified by the DCA's lawyer as Frank Russo.Graziano, who said the zoning at the site is for R1-2, or low-density residential housing with no commercial overlay, asserted the location is not fit for a sizable apartment complex. He further dismissed the developer's claim that single-family properties can't sell there."It's a bogus argument," he said, calling into question the developer's financial comparisons, which apparently included references to small semi-attached houses that are atypical of the area.Avella, who attended the meeting, also took a dim view of the developer's argument. "I'm not buying it. It's an absurd argument," the councilman said, adding, "Why should the city have to guarantee developers huge profits?"Avella also asserted that the BSA should simply dismiss the developer's case out of hand."That's not a variance," he said of the developer's request. "That's a de facto zoning change, and [the BSA] would be exceeding its authority" in granting it.DCA attorney Marc Bresky said the hearing went well for his client's side. "I believe the board recognized the factual and legal issues that need to be confronted," and realized the developer's proposals fell outside the purview of a minimal variance, he said.Elliot Socci, head of the DCA, shared Bresky's positive assessment of the meeting, saying "from our point of view, I think it went very well."Speaking with guarded optimism, Socci said the BSA was "maintaining its position of driving down" the size of the building proposal. "No one on our side believes [the developer] has submitted a reasonable request. Neither does the board," he said.While the BSA has not formally rejected the plan, as no vote has been taken, it has asked the developer to go back to the drawing board, Socci said.The BSA has scheduled its next hearing for April 15."The next meeting may not be the last," Socci warned, "though we'll act as if it is."Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.
©2008 Community News Group
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