CB 11 unites to oppose illegally zoned housing

Christine Haider (l.), chairwoman of Community Board 11, speaks at the board's monthly meeting April 7. Photo by Kelsey Durham
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Community Board 11 voted at its monthly meeting this week to stand against legitimizing any illegally zoned housing units within the board’s district.

In a 41-1 vote, with three absent members and one who abstained, the board approved a resolution stating that it “opposes any proposal to permit additional housing units in violation of existing zoning laws in the city of New York.”

The resolution was introduced on the heels of a suggestion by Mayor Bill de Blasio that legalizing some illegal apartments would lead to more affordable housing throughout the city.

The measure says that legalization of illegal units would only further encourage illegal zoning to continue to take place. During the discussion, some members of the board raised points that there are safety concerns with units that violate the zoning laws put in place partly to protect the residents who inhabit the apartments.

“We all know that we do need more affordable housing, but we should make a statement that this is not a good idea for a variety of reasons,” said Henry Euler, the board member who penned the resolution. “There’s zoning issues and safety issues and I just felt that this was not a very good idea.”

CB 11 covers Bayside, Auburndale, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens and Hollis Hills — all neighborhoods which are known to place a high importance on following zoning laws and frequently get involved in hearings that challenge the look and feel of the area.

Janet McEneaney, who represents Bayside on the board, agreed with Euler’s resolution and said illegal housing has started to have a negative impact on the area and needs to be stopped.

“I can’t even find a parking spot anymore because of all the illegal conversions and the homes that have four, five or six families living in a two-family house,” she said. “We need affordable housing units, but they should not be in basements and attics. This is not what we need in Bayside and I do not myself want to see that happen.”

Chris Petallides, the lone vote in opposition to the resolution, said he disagreed with the wording of the document because it was “too absolute” to rule out all illegal units in general. The Little Neck resident, who works as an architect, said some units zoned illegally may not be dangerous and could help provide cheaper housing for people in need.

“In the last 12 years or so, I’ve seen the law of what constitutes habitable units change about 20 times, which means they don’t know,” Petallides said. “They don’t know what constitutes habitability of a unit and they can’t get it right, so we don’t know what they want. What we know is there is a real housing problem and we have to show some compassion.”

Petallides said he believes there are people willing to take the illegal units and make them safe, which he said would benefit the crowds of homeless people scattered throughout New York City. But the rest of the group sided with Euler’s resolution as the community board agreed that uniting against illegal housing was the best thing for the community.

“We spent a lot of time and years working on zoning in this neighborhood so that the character would not be changed,” McEneaney said. “We’ve all worked very hard on this and I don’t want to see the character change.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at

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Reader Feedback

Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
This should be common sense across the whole board.
April 10, 2014, 7:47 am
anon from queens says:
And what about the fact that between bayside, Francis Lewis and cardozo high schools, there are 12000 kids already in those schools combined? The number of kids in each of those high schools should be cut in half. It is not only a safety hazard but what child wants to go to school until 630 at night? This is stupid! Please vote no to these illegal conversions! Tell these foreigners that if they can't find legal housing in NYC to live, then move somewhere else
April 10, 2014, 8:08 am
Super from Queens says:
This is awesome. Many beautiful one and two family homes have been knocked down and replaced with four family homes. These homes have way too many cars parked and also are fire hazards. The homes obliterate the yards so that a firefighter would not be able to access many of the windows because he would have no place to stand, put his ladder etc. Two issue need to be addressed - why are some of these wonderful old homes not landmarked. The second is that for every knockdown to be approved, there needs to be an environmental impact study.
April 10, 2014, 10:24 am
Hope from queens says:
Our mayor is going to give ID papers to criminals who stole into our country. So he will probably give them apartments too.
April 10, 2014, 11:41 am
Antonio from Queens says:
I guess Avella is finished taking kickbacks from all the McMansions he's already allowed to go up.
Sept. 26, 2014, 11:12 am

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