Doug civic urges residents to tackle overbuilding issue

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Maybe the U.S. Postal Service should get ready because in the next few weeks it may be seeing an awful lot of letters going from the Little Neck-Douglaston corner of Queens straight to City Hall.

The Douglaston Civic Association was in the midst of planning several meetings throughout the neighborhood this week to give residents who are frustrated about excessive building in the community the chance to write letters to their elected officials.

The civic was expected to focus on the issue of community facilities, such as medical offices, schools, community groups and churches, which are permitted under the city’s zoning rules to build in residential areas without first notifying the community.

Eliott Socci, president of the Douglaston Civic Association, said the complaints against community facilities focus on quality-of-life issues.

“They tend to be oversized, they tend to have inadequate parking and that creates a burden for the rest of the neighborhood,” he said.

Socci said residents become upset when they see large structures being built that dwarf neighboring homes, and residents do not always know what to do with their frustrations.

“What we’re trying to do is focus their frustration into creative energy that will catch the attention of elected officials,” Socci said.

Opposition to community facilities among Queens civic groups has been running high for some time, especially in sections of the borough such as Flushing, where there is a battle over a parking lot for a Korean church, and Kew Gardens, where homeowners are worried about new construction in residential areas.

The Little Neck-Douglaston community is up in arms over plans to build a three-story Korean church on a relatively small lot.

Because community facilities are just beginning to move into the northeasternmost corner of the borough, Little Neck-Douglaston civic leaders have only recently begun to mobilize against them.

“We hope to generate many letters in order to show elected officials that this is a real important issue to many people and they should be responsive to the electorate,” Socci said. “This is a voting issue.”

The civic, which serves about 950 residences throughout Douglaston and about a dozen in Little Neck, was expected to hold three to four meetings for different sections of Douglaston. But no dates had been decided as of press time Tuesday.

Socci said the civic was joining the campaign begun by the Queens Civic Congress some time ago: to change the way community facilities are regulated by city zoning rules and force the facilities to build structures similar to others in the neighborhoods they enter.

The civic has at least one elected official on its side: City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who is making the regulation of community facilities one of his signature issues.

Avella, chairman of the City Council’s Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, said he would like to see legislative changes restricting the size of the structures that community facilities can build in residential areas.

The councilman said people need to become aware of the significance of zoning in residential city neighborhoods.

“Whether or not you know it, the zoning code and inappropriate zoning, in my opinion, is directly connected to the quality of life,” he said.

Avella said it is important for residents to write letters as opposed to e-mailing or calling their local politicians because elected officials take letters more seriously.

“Anybody who takes the time to write will take the time to vote,” he said.

The Douglaston Civic meetings, which will be open to everyone, will give residents a chance to write letters to several city council members, City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Socci said. Civic leaders will be on hand to answer questions about community facilities, he said.

Meetings for those in the area south of Northern Boulevard were expected to be held at Father Smith Hall at St. Anastasia’s Church, at 45-05 245th St., Socci said. Those living north of Northern Boulevard can attend meetings at the Zion Episcopal Church at 243-01 Northern Blvd.

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

Updated 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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