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Auburndale group approves major rezoning

The Auburndale Improvement Association has voted to support a proposed massive northeast Queens rezoning, but members still have major concerns about its failure to address issues related to a commercial and industrial district in the Station Road area.

The zoning changes, if passed, will make it more difficult to construct buildings in a 418-square-block area of Auburndale, Oakland Gardens and Hollis Hills which do not fit the character of the existing neighborhoods.

Residents and community leaders have sought the so-called downzoning for years as hundreds of homes were torn down or modified to create higher-density, larger or what they consider less-attractive buildings.

“This rezoning will ensure that the character that’s there today will be protected moving into the future,” John Young, the director of the Queens office of the Department of City Planning, said at the civic’s March 16 meeting, which drew dozens of concerned citizens.

But residents of the area known as Station Road in the northwestern part of the area up for rezoning, emphatically opposed the proposal, saying a small commercial and manufacturing area along 172nd Avenue and Station Road should also have been tackled. Nearby residents say they are concerned about the environmental and health impacts the automotive and other businesses there could be having on the neighborhood.

“It’s time to get this done and it’s time now,” said Chrissy Voskerichian, vice president of the Station Road Civic Association. “On 172nd Street these industrial businesses are 50 feet from people’s doors, their kids and everything else.”

Young said City Planning was unable to figure out a way to address the issue at this time. He maintained it would be best to continue with the current rezoning because reworking the plan would create a major delay, during which time developers could move forward with egregious projects in the area, and pledged that the department “will continue to monitor” the issue.

“This is a good step forward. It doesn’t do everything we asked,” said former City Councilman Tony Avella, who was instrumental in guiding the rezoning plan from an idea to where it stands today. “But once it goes on the Web site, developers are going to know about it, and if they have their eye on something in the district, they’re going to rush to try to beat the clock.”

Avella and other attendees of the meeting were also unhappy about a lack of new protections for Auburndale’s cherished single-family row houses, a provision which Young said City Planning is looking into other ways to tackle as well.

The proposal goes to Community Boards 7 and 11 next, which will have 60 days to consider the plan before it moves on to higher levels of approval until an eventual vote by the Council.

The Council vote, if the proposal makes it that far, will take place within the next seven months. The exact date is dependant on the speed with which it makes it through the approval process.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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