Today’s news:

South Jamaica rezone approved by Council

The residential character of South Jamaica has been saved following the successful rezoning of the area last week, elected officials said.

The City Council unanimously approved the 580-block redesignation May 11 for the neighborhood. Not only will out-of-character buildings be banned from being built on blocks populated by one- and two-family houses, but businesses that help promote healthy food choices in the neighborhood will get special city benefits.

“I want to thank [Council] Speaker [Christine] Quinn and my colleagues for unanimously approving the rezoning of South Jamaica, which represents an important step for the southeast Queens community to preserve, protect and enhance how these communities grow for the next decade,” Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) said in a statement.

The zoning affects the properties in the area bound in the 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. Those neighborhoods have not had a zoning change in 50 years.

The homes are now designated R3A and R3X, which only permit single- and two-family homes and have a maximum building height of 35 feet. Land used to be zoned R3-2, which allowed for all types of buildings, had a maximum building height of 35 feet.

Community members have long complained that too many multi-family houses and apartment buildings were popping up in the neighborhood and sticking out like sore thumbs. A civic group called One Block at a Time was formed by Connie Johnson to push for the zoning change and save the community’s character.

Comrie said Johnson and her group worked hard with the Department of City Planning and others to make the rezoning a reality.

“The staff at the Department of City Planning did a tremendous amount of outreach at community board and civic meetings to ensure that this rezoning reflected the needs and wishes of the district. This project represents the strength of our city when citizens and government come together to address how our communities operate for the future,” he said.

The rezoning not only aims to save the look of South Jamaica, but also helps to fight obesity in the neighborhood.

As part of the plan, business owners are eligible to participate in the city Health Department’s Food Retail Expansion to Support Health program. Store owners who open shops that carry fresh fruit and produce can get tax breaks and other benefits from the city.

Comrie, who has been vocal against obesity in his district, said there are not too many healthy food choices in southeast Queens.

“The extension of the important FRESH program ... is integral for families to have access to healthy, nutritious food,” he said.

The Council also gave its full approval to the city Landmarks Preservation Commission’s March designation of Addisleigh Park as an official city landmark neighborhood. The community was home to several black celebrities and historical figures, including baseball legend Jackie Robinson, actress Lena Horne and civil rights activist W.E.B. DuBois.

“The southeast Queens community takes tremendous pride in the acknowledgement of this neighborhood and I am hopeful that the rich history and legacy of Addisleigh Park will be used as a teaching tool in schools across the city,” Comrie said.

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

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