By Alexander Dworkowitz

With the construction of condominiums on the waterfront and the destruction of historic homes throughout the neighborhood, College Point needs new zoning that more properly reflects its character, a local preservationist said Tuesday.

Speaking in front of a crowd of about 75 at the Poppenhusen Institute Tuesday evening, Flushing preservationist Paul Graziano recommended a change to the zoning in almost all of College Point.

“The key here is to protect what's on the ground today and prevent the overdevelopment of your neighborhood,” he said.

Graziano has been hired by the city to come up with a new zoning scheme in the district of Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), which encompasses College Point, Malba, Whitestone, Beechhurst, Bayside, Douglaston, Little Neck and parts of Flushing.

Graziano, a former city council candidate and co-chairman of the Queens Civic Congress's Zoning and Land Use Committee, is expected to complete his study by Oct. 15.

In recent years, developers in College Point have bought small homes, many of which are more than 100 years old, and knocked them down, replacing them with larger dwellings. The increased population as a result of the development has put a strain on the neighborhood's schools and roads, residents have said.

At the Tuesday meeting, Graziano explained that most of College Point is zoned R4 or R3-2, general zones that allow a range of construction. Multiple dwellings, both attached and detached, can be constructed on one plot zoned R4 or R3-2.

Such zoning is not appropriate for a neighborhood with narrow streets such as College Point, Graziano said.

Instead the preservationist recommended that the city change the neighborhood's zoning to R2, R3A or R4A, which have stricter requirements.

Already-existing buildings in violation of the new zoning would be allowed to stand, Graziano said. But new construction would have to conform with the new regulations, he said.

After coming up with an official proposal in October, Graziano will divulge his plan to the community, which will have an opportunity to recommend changes to his proposal. He will then submit a final plan to the City Planning Commission.

Avella told the crowd that flaws in zoning in northeast Queens have been ignored for years.

“The issue of zoning wasn't sexy,” he said. “Nobody listened. Nobody listened for decades. People didn't listen until the problem was on their block. Now the problem is on every block.”

Graziano said development also threatened College Point's lengthy coastline and he invited James Cervino, a marine biologist and former College Point resident, to discuss the issue.

Cervino told the crowd he had undertaken a preliminary study of the neighborhood's waterfront.

While the condition of the coastline has generally improved in past decades, Cervino warned that if condominiums were built on the remaining wetlands, the waterfront could suffer.

“These areas are stressed. They cannot withstand any more stress,” he said.

The discussion of zoning struck a chord with College Point residents who attended the meeting.

“I am dismayed to see the mass destruction of the neighborhood by way of these developers who will build anything,” said Sean Chang, 34.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300 Ext. 141.

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