City plans to rezone S. Jamaica

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A new rezoning plan unveiled by the city Monday is designed to preserve south Jamaica’s character and also help residents stay green nutritionally.

The Department of City Planning finalized its proposal to update the zoning designations for 530 blocks in the neighborhood that include homes and businesses. Aside from new regulations that would prevent the construction of out-of-character buildings, the rezoning will also include the creation of the Fresh´╗┐ Program, which gives incentives and zoning privileges to supermarkets and grocery stores that move to the area, according to City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden.

“We have replaced antiquated zoning with fine-grained plans that are tailored to fit each unique neighborhood, and we are continuing this practice in South Jamaica, our largest rezoning,” she said in a statement.

The rezoning proposal covers the neighborhoods bounded north by Liberty Avenue, 108th Avenue and South Road; east by Merrick and Springfield boulevards; south by North Conduit Avenue; and west by the Van Wyck Expressway.

The area’s businesses and homes, which are predominantly one- and two-family structures, have not had a zoning change in 59 years, according to the city.

Under the new designations, developers would be mandated to build only one- and two-family homes. The city made similar rezonings in St. Albans, Springfield Gardens and Forest Hills over the last three years following numerous complaints from residents about the construction of houses that were out of character.

The south Jamaica plan would also include “moderate-density districts” along commercial sections of the neighborhood at Sutphin, Merrick, and Rockaway boulevards, City Planning said. The businesses on those streets would have a contextual height limit of 30 to 40 feet and the depth of the commercial overlays would be reduced to prevent encroachment on nearby homes, according to City Planning.

What makes this rezoning different from the other plans done in southeast Queens is the Fresh program.

Working with the city Economic Development Corp., City Planning creates zoning and financial incentives to grocery businesses that create new stores in areas that are lacking proper food marts. The program, which is already operating in downtown Jamaica, also gives preference to supermarkets that carry fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthy choices, according to Burden.

“By providing incentives for new and expanded full-line grocery stores, Fresh promotes healthy lifestyles and provides more access to fresh produce for residents, which will combat the twin epidemics of obesity and diabetes,” she said.

The proposal has a long way to go before it can become a reality, since it must get the approval of Community Board 12, the borough president the City Planning commission and finally the City Council.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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