Today’s news:

City planning supports rezone of Jamaica nabe

The city’s proposal that would save the character of South Jamaica and help its residents become healthier came one step closer to reality last week.

The City Planning Commission unanimously approved the 530-block rezoning for the southeast Queens neighborhood during its meeting March 30. Under the plan, buildings will be limited to only one- and two-family homes in residential areas.

Adjoa Gzifa, chairwoman of Community Board 12, which also approved the rezoning in January, said that over the last couple years many out-of-character homes were going up, and that bothered longtime residents who preferred the smaller, more traditional look of the neighborhood.

“It’s on track,” she said of the plan. “It should pass because this is what the people wanted.”

The City Council must approve of the rezoning for it to be official, according to City Planning, which pointed out that the proposal is the largest one created´╗┐ by the Bloomberg administration.

The plan encompasses an area bounded north by Liberty Avenue, 108th Avenue and South Road; in the east by Merrick and Springfield boulevards; in the south by North Conduit Avenue; and in the west by the Van Wyck Expressway. The last time the area was zoned was 1961.

The homes currently are zoned with a R3-2 designation that allows for all building types to be constructed. Under the plan, the designation will be changed to R3A and R3X, which restrict homes to one- and two-family houses.

New commercial overlays will also be built on stores located on Merrick, Sutphin and Rockaway boulevards and give more space between commercial properties and the nearby homes.

One of the new initiatives included in the rezoning is the Food Retail Expansion to Support Health pilot program. Studies by the city indicated that South Jamaica does not have easy access to food stores that sell fresh fruits and produce.

Any store owner who opens up a shop in the rezoned area can apply for the FRESH program and receive tax benefits and other incentives for selling fresh food, according to City Planning spokeswoman Jovana Rizzo.

“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 in a statement.

Gzifa also welcomed the plan to bring more healthy food stores into the area.

“If you go down Merrick Boulevard, how many supermarkets do we have? We have Pathmark and that’s about it,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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