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CB 7 approves rezone plan

Community Board 7 voted 37-0 Monday night to lend its approval to a rezoning that would be the city’s largest to date, affecting more than 400 blocks in Auburndale, Oakland Gardens and Hollis Hills.

The proposed rezoning, which could go into effect as early as next fall, would downzone most of the area in order to prevent out-of-character development and commercial intrusion from creeping into residential blocks.

“In all, this rezoning being proposed will protect and maintain the character of the one- and two-family housing in these neighborhoods,” said Edgar Bajana, the Department of City Planning’s project manager for the proposal, which was certified in May.

The majority of the 418 blocks in the proposed rezoning are within CB 11, 80 blocks are in CB 7 and one block is in CB 8, which will hold a public hearing on the plan June 23. The proposal will then go before Borough President Helen Marshall, City Planning and finally the City Council.

The borders for the Oakland Gardens and Hollis Hills portion of the project are the Long Island Expressway and 56th Avenue to the north, Alley Pond Park in the east, Cunningham Park in the west and the Grand Central Parkway in the south.

The Auburndale section’s borders are Station Road in the north, 208th Street and Francis Lewis Boulevard to the east, 166th and Robinson streets in the west and the Long Island Expressway in the south.

A major sticking point on the rezoning — a small manufacturing area along 172nd Avenue and Station Road in Auburndale often referred to as the “T” — has been removed from the plan entirely in favor of dealing with it separately, according to John Young, director of City Planning’s Queens office. Leaving it in the plan would “taint” the entire proposal, leaving it vulnerable to legal challenges, Young said.

Residents who said businesses there, particularly Star Nissan, cause havoc on their quiet streets with pollution, noise and other disruptions repeatedly have requested the city downzone the area to residential in order to address their complaints.

Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said he, some of his fellow Council members and City Planning have forged a possible new approach on the Station Road issue. Though he said many of the problems there are issues of enforcement, not zoning, the city is still looking into ways to address the situation through zoning.

The city cannot simply kick a business off a piece of land based on residents’ complaints, he said.

“Because they’re the owners of the property there, you can’t kick them out. No matter what we do, Star Nissan would be grandfathered in,” he said. “This will not necessarily be easy and this will not necessarily be perfect ... however, we do have a commitment from City Planning to do a review of this area and work to find an alternative.”

The “T” was taken out of the rezoning and City Planning is currently completing an environmental review of the land, which was polluted in the 1960s by a previous owner, according to Halloran.

By the end of August, the department will have the results of the review and will then determine whether there is a way to address the issues there with a new rezoning of its own, which would then go through the public approval process, according to Young.

Terri Pouymari, president of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said she was happy with the evening’s result, but the Station Road issue should be dealt with in a timely fashion — a sentiment many community members echoed.

“We do support the certified rezoning as it is,” she said. “We’re disappointed that [the “T”] was not dealt with directly ... but by the end of August we should have a possible alternative.”

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

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