CB 2 rejects dorm for undergraduates

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Representatives from a real estate investment firm went to Community Board 2 last Thursday hoping to amend their already approved city Board of Standards and Appeals resolution and build a residential tower before a planned dormitory for CUNY students. But they ended up having CB 2 reject their resolution entirely.

“I feel that there’s a significant difference between 300 to 400 undergraduates in our community and 300 to 400 graduate students and faculty in our community,” said John Bradley, an area resident.

CB 2’s recommendation last Thursday involved two buildings to be built at 511 47th Ave. in Long Island City. O’Connor Capital Partners, a Manhattan real estate investment firm, originally planned to construct a 12-story residential building and a six-story dormitory for graduate students and faculty, said Joe Conley, chairman of CB 2. The plan was recommended for approval by CB 2 and approved by the BSA in 2008. Yet the City University of New York, which was a partner in the plan to build the dormitory, ended up pulling out of the project.

“It was very distressing that [CUNY] didn’t even have the decency to call and say, ‘Sorry, we changed our mind,’” Conley said.

Harold Goldman, attorney with GoldmanHarris LLC, spoke for O’Connor Capital Partners and said the firm is still planning to build, but has opened up the option of using the dormitory for undergraduates, or possibly another use entirely. In addition, O’Connor wanted to start construction the high-rise residential building first, which would be sold at market price, and went to CB 2 to get permission to change the resolution for that purpose.

This did not meet the approval of CB 2, although it objected to the plan primarily because of the possibility the dormitories might be for undergraduates. Lisa Deller, chairwoman of the Land Use Committee for CB 2, said the dormitories were originally approved back in 2008 with a deed restriction saying the residences should only be for graduate students and faculty.

“What does it do to the community?” Deller asked. “What does it do to the one- and two-family houses on that street?”

Goldman made the argument that CB 2 should approve the resolution based on the firm’s reputation, saying the firm had cooperated with the board in the past and had been a good neighbor.

“O’Connor has at all times acted in good faith,” he said.

Deller said the concern was for the community makeup, but not O’Connor’s character or integrity.

“It’s really how the community is going to look and how it’s going to feel,” she said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 10:42 am, October 12, 2011
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