BSA must look out for needs of community, not developers

TimesLedger Newspapers

The November 2011 issue of the Bayside Hills Civic Association newsletter, The Beacon, tells of the disappointment that the city Board of Standards and Appeals granted a developer a variance of the neighborhood’s R2A zoning to permit him to build a larger house.

The developer wanted to build a house on a small corner of a lot which already had a house. The community believes this will create a precedent in this one-family-home neighborhood and change its quality of life.

The BSA was created in 1991 after the new City Charter was adopted. The theory was that a developer or homeowner would have a place to go to if he had a hardship, but developers have been using the BSA to violate the R2A zoning of residential communities so they can overdevelop the area. In a letter sent to the BSA, City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) pointed out the various ways in which the BSA decision violated the rules that should have been followed.

The builder should have known the zoning and the rules when he bought the property in 2008 and then subdivided the property. The owner created his own hardship. The current zoning resolution has loopholes giving builders the right to build bigger on corner lots and if a community facility is being built. Builders who come before the BSA use every loophole and the BSA continues to grant variances often in spite of community objections and its own rules.

The Beacon explained that although the civic association, Community Board 11, the office of the borough president and every elected official opposed this variance, the BSA approved it. The builder has a history of building houses “for his daughter,” who never moves into the houses. A former member of the BSA was hired as an architect for the job.

The civic held a rally at the site. The only other recourse is to go to court, but this costs about $30,000 with no guarantee of a win. The mayor appoints the five BSA members and is pro-development, so it will be hard to have new rules passed by the Council, where some members work closely with the mayor.

The civic association and community leaders, who are all volunteers, will continue to press the issue. They live in these communities and are concerned about the quality of life in their areas.

The November issue of the Queens Colony Civic Association newsletter told of the Oct. 24 vote by the members of CB 13 against the issue of the plan for the Indian Cultural and Community Center to construct two nine-story apartment buildings on Creedmoor land. The vote was 22 in favor of the resolution by the Land Use Committee to oppose the plan. I opposed the resolution.

The newsletter said not long ago the ICCC was able to purchase for $1.8 million a piece of Creedmoor land said to be valued at $7.3 million, based on legislation permitting them to construct a one-story recreation center, an athletic field and a parking lot for 100 cars. In May 2011, it was discovered that there were now plans to build two nine-story, affordable houses for senior citizens. This would have been adjacent to one-family homes.

Next, the affordable housing was changed to co-ops or condominiums with apartments made available to those who could afford the mortgages or who had invested with ICCC. The one-story cultural center changed into a three-story building with perhaps a medical facility and the parking lot reduced in size and the athletic field eliminated with more residences added.

The nearby civic associations send volunteers out to obtain letters of objection. They collected more than 2,200 letters which they presented to CB 13. The proposal is now on hold, as several city and state legal officials investigate if there were any illegal practices involved. Bills have been introduced in the state Legislature requiring a public hearing before any state land is sold to anyone.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: There recently appeared a photo reportedly showing U.S. Marines urinating on dead Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan. Some people believed the action was terrible, while others that the action was retribution.

The Taliban burn down schools where girls are education and acid is thrown on the face of those girls. Before we criticize solders for things they do during a guerrilla war, we should understand that they know they will die if captured. This knowledge might make someone act a little irrational.

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