The Civic Scene: Unique boro task force keeps zoning in check

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Anyone may attend, from an unhappy homeowner to civic association leader to builder to community board member to representative of a Queens legislator. The most recent Queens Zoning Task Force meeting was held in the Borough President's Conference Room, the usual meeting location. The room was filled with almost every available seat taken. Regretfully there had not been meetings for some time.

Co-chairs were Irving Poy, who is new, from Shulman's Office, and Bernard Haber, who has been a co-chair for decades and is an architect and long-time chairman of Community Board 11 in Bayside. Haber gave a brief history of the task force and explained that about 30 neighborhoods had been rezoned downward over the years to reflect the type of housing stock already located there.

Zoning is very important to owners of property. A factory owner wants to manufacture, a shop keeper wants to sell products, a tenant wants a certain type of structure and a homeowner wants to live in a certain type of neighborhood. Some people don't care if they live where there are three, four, or even 10-story buildings with or without grass and flowers or trees. People pay a certain price for their home in a neighborhood which they feel is the kind of quality of life they want.

People should know what type of zoning they live in. For example, a person living in a one-family house on a 40-by-100 lot should live in a R 2 zoned area, but if the area is zoned, say, R 5 or R 6 and the developer had built only on- family homes, then a homeowner may wake up one morning to discover that someone bought two homes and is tearing them down and is building a six-story apartment house "as of right' - without having to go through many local channels - because the zoning says he could.

The Queens Zoning Task Force works with the Queens Office of the City Planning Commission to study areas which have the wrong zoning and then to hold a hearing and to rezone the area to protect the homeowners from non-conforming buildings suddenly being built.

John David Young is the new director of the Queens City Planning Office. He reported that last year parts of Ridgewood were downzoned, as was Broadway and 31st Avenue in Astoria. The planning office is currently working on a 30-block area of Long Island City which is about 30 percent industrial, 30 percent residential and about 4 percent mixed to set the right zoning which would satisfy everyone.

The planners are working to rezone north Corona, east Flushing, Brookville­/Rosedale, and Forest Hills with plans to eventually rezone parts of Kew Gardens, Holliswood, Bellerose and Little Neck. Looking at a zoning map one can see that the north Corona area is R 6, which will probably be rezoned down to R 5 and the R 5 down to R 4 to reflect the two or three-floor houses located there. The Forest Hills area is zoned R 4 but has one and two-family detached homes with some row houses. The area will probably be downzoned to R 4A and R 4B which will permit row houses but not five or six-story apartment houses.

The importance of these rezoning studies and the enforcement of the zoning laws was emphasized when some of the civic association leaders present complained that builders or owners are parking on their lawns or laying concrete in front of their houses to park cars. This certainly can ruin your quality of life. Call the Mayor's Quality of Life Hotline, 888-677-5433 and/or call your local community board to complain.


The Sanitation Department did a good job on the snow clearing, although as I did mention in my last column, there was a little overkill with plows coming down my block too many times. However, it took them eight days to get to my garbage cans, which were overflowing by then. I must say that it was good when the salters came through again after the temperature went down below freezing and the slush froze, although I wish they would use something less corrosive than rock salt. Oh, Sanitation did seem to have cut through enough piles of snow at the bus stops so passengers could easily get to the buses. Good!

Updated 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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