By Bob Harris

Dolan spoke eloquently about the need to rezone down from R2 to R2A. She told of the rezoning of Douglaston, Holliswood and Jamaica Hills by the City Council and the progress of changing to R2A of Springfield, Flushing, Whitestone and College Point. Her punch line was that “once these areas are rezoned to prevent overbuilding by taking advantage of the loopholes in the current R2 zone, then the speculators will come to Fresh Meadows to build their McMansions.”She and Graziano explained why the R2A re-zoning was a good way to prevent the overbuilding of Fresh Meadows. I have previously explained that homeowners buy into a community expecting a certain size building with light and air and grass and flowering plants and green bushes and fine old tress. They pay for open space. If people wanted cement covering the ground, tall huge square brick buildings, fumes from many cars and lots of garbage cans, then they would move into Manhattan. Now Manhattan has certain advantages, but it doesn't have the green, airy, sunlit spaces we have in Queens. We pay for these amenities and so we fight to preserve them.The room was crowed to capacity with some people standing. Several questions were asked of Graziano and Dolan. Civic leaders Tami Hirsch, Maria Delnnocentiis and Bob Harris conducted the meeting. After about an hour there was a motion to proceed with the rezoning of the two civic areas from R2 to R2A. Every person voted for the proposal. No one voted against it. The West Cunningham Park Civic Association, Inc. had mailed the newsletter meeting notice to all their 1,205 homes and the Civic Association of Utopia Estates had hand delivered their newsletter notice to all their 800 homes.The next day Hirsch contacted the director of the Queens office of the City Planning Department, John Young. On June 1 he will speak to the two civic associations and answer any further questions the residents might have. Hopefully, he will bring maps of all the blocks in the two communities and explain to volunteers how they have to survey every house in the two neighborhoods so City Planning can actually determine if the area should be rezoned.After City Planning certifies the maps, a hearing will have to be held by Community Board 8. Then the Queens Borough President, City Planning Department and finally the City Council will vote on the rezoning. People can testify at each stage of the process. This is how it was done in Bayside.It is interesting that Councilman Tony Avella is being honored by the Manhattan-based Historic District Council with the “Friends in High Places Award.” It was the councilman who instigated all this rezoning by hiring urban planner Paul Graziano to survey the district and thus determined the need for the rezoning called R2A.Avella is cited for introducing the “Failure to Maintain Bill,” which permits the City Landmarks Committee to levy fines against owners who do not maintain their landmarked property. He introduced the bill, which limited the size of community facilities in residential neighborhoods and also helped in the creation the Douglaston Historic District, only one of six in Queens.Similarly, the Riverdale Press has been awarded the “Friends from the Media Award” for reporting on development and preservation needs in the Bronx.Good and bad news of the weekGov. George Pataki and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver compromised on the severity of a bill to stiffen penalties for drunken drivers whose actions kill. The bill was pressed by the mother of Vasean Phillip Alleyne, who was killed by an alleged drunken driver in Kew Gardens. Vasean's friend, Angel Reyes, was badly injured. The old law only made killing of a person while drunk a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of one year.Under the new law called Vasean's Law, a similar crime would carry a sentence of up to seven years in prison. There is discussion on a new package of even harsher DWI bills. Vasean's mother, Monique Dixon, had visited Community Board 8 for support and spent weeks lobbying in Albany for a harsher DWI law. Over the years there have been similar tragic DWI incidents, but this last incident and the perseverance of a distraught mother seems to have finally moved the “big three” in Albany.

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