By Cynthia Koons

After an hour of public comment – most of which was public dissent against the potential upzoning of Northern Boulevard from 150th to 165th streets – the board changed the zoning map to prohibit large buildings on the east Flushing commercial strip in a zoning proposal that was otherwise favored by the community.The board voted unanimously to pass the overall zoning changes in the Broadway neighborhood as long as the Department of City Planning altered the zoning designation in the commercial areas to not permit five-story buildings on Northern and Sanford avenues.Now that the proposal has been voted on at the board level, it must be approved by the borough president's office, the Department of City Planning and the City Council. Whether those groups will uphold the community board's recommendation to not allow large-scale development on Northern Boulevard remains to be seen.”The goal of the rezoning map is to protect the character of the east Flushing neighborhood,” Community Board member Arthur Barragan said when he introduced the map to a packed meeting at the Union Plaza Nursing Home, 33-23 Union St. in Flushing.For the most part, the zoning changes would serve to protect the sprawling suburban feel of east Flushing, an area dominated by single-family homes on large lots, a stark contrast to the majority of Flushing where attached, multiple-family dwellings are common.Until now, development in that area has been restricted by the Rickert-Finlay covenant, imposed by the developers who built the sprawling neighborhood in 1906 and upheld by the subsequent homeowners. The covenant has been challenged by developers in individual court cases over the years, but urban planning consultant Paul Graziano said this zoning law, if enacted, would effectively protect the homeowners from overdevelopment in their neighborhood as the covenant once did.John Young, from the Department of City Planning, said the upzoning of Northern Boulevard was initiated to compensate for the downzoning of the surrounding residential area.But most of the more than 150 people who signed up to speak during the public comment period said they were very concerned about the potential overdevelopment of the commercial areas on Sanford Avenue and Northern Boulevard.”If I'm going to live in Manhattan or some other metropolis or some other place in the world, I would move there,” Kathleen Schweiger said. “I do not want this metropolis coming into my home.”The zoning designation that was on the table would have allowed for apartment buildings on top of the commercial storefronts in east Flushing. “The tenants of these potential new apartments will need to park in this residential area, thus unfairly impacting the quality of life of those who live there,” Kissena Park Civic Association Chairman Joe Amoroso said in his prepared statement. “This high-density zoning should be lowered in order to protect the surrounding low-density residential community.”By the end of the meeting, the board sided with those residents' opinions and voted to pass the zoning as long as the changes in the commercial district were scaled down to only allow 33-foot-tall buildings instead of 55-foot-buildings as was originally proposed.”We only get an opportunity to fix our zoning mistakes once every 50 years or so, so let's do our very best to do it right now,” Amoroso said.Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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