By Sophia Chang

Douglaston Civic Association president Eliott Socci and Little Neck Pines head Bob Nobile, seeking to curb overdevelopment, told an audience of 100 local residents at MS 67 that they hope to apply for downzoning similar to Bayside's controversial proposal. Socci and Nobile want the same plan that Baysiders are facing, a Department of City Planning proposal to downzone 350 blocks of the neighborhood to the tightest building restrictions in the city.Driven by City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), a centerpiece of the Bayside plan is the creation of a new zoning designation called R2A, which replaces all areas currently zoned R2 for single-family, detached houses. The R2A designation has been hailed as a powerful weapon against so-called McMansions, buildings criticized as overly large and non-compliant with building code.”It's so very important, what we're doing in terms of stopping McMansions,” Avella said. He praised the R2A designation as the “strongest, tightest zoning restriction,” he said. Avella said he would also work to tighten the area's other zoning codes for multi-family homes.Urban planner Paul Graziano, who presented a short overview of the R2A details, called it “the best zone the city has ever had to control sizes.”To expedite the lengthy public review process mandatory in downzoning, Avella called for cooperation from Douglaston and Little Neck residents. He criticized Community Board 11 for slowing down the Bayside rezoning proposal.”It can take up to six months to go through the public review, but if we all work together, which Community Board 11 unfortunately did not do that on the Bayside application and delayed it for a month,” Avella said. The board conditionally approved the plan in January, and after approval from the Department of City Planning Monday and a City Council hearing scheduled for April 4, Avella said he anticipates the Bayside proposal to be law by early April. Taking lessons from the recent outcry in Bayside over what some said was lack of community input into the rezoning process, the two civic leaders stressed the emphasis on public information.”We're giving you an opportunity to know and decide,” Socci said.Some residents seemed to be already in support of the plan.”We have seen all the major housing, but in reality it destroys the character of the whole neighborhood,” said Joanne Pauselli, who has lived in Douglaston for ten years.”I'm looking for stability,” said Little Neck resident Bob Schumann. He called the downzoning proposal “a step in the right direction.”Avella vowed that R2A is there for Little Neck and Douglaston to take.”All that's stopping it is you saying no,” he told the residents. “If you want it, you'll get it.”Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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