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St. Albans opposes new housing plan

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The city Board of Standards and Appeals is in the final stages of reviewing the application presented by the St. Albans Presbyterian Church and a Westchester-based developer to erect an affordable housing building on Farmers Boulevard.

During a review session Aug. 19, one of the board members questioned the parking demand study forwarded by the developer, an analysis concluding that “31 percent of the residents of the area commute by subway, but there is no subway in the vicinity.”

She added that “I don’t have a good idea what transportation alternatives are in the area.”

Sharon Johnson, of the St. Albans Civic Improvement Association, said the project “is not compatible with the zoning regulations in the area.”

To begin construction, the church is seeking zoning variances involving maximum building height, maximum dwelling unit and minimum parking. The project involves building a 67-unit structure of one- and two-bedroom apartments as well as a community center at ground level.

The plan calls for an affordable housing, five-story building construction on two empty lots on Farmers Boulevard between 118th and 119th avenues.

The area is zoned for low-residential units, and it is characterized by having one- and two-story homes along Farmers Boulevard as well as local stores.

Mike Pope, who lives approximately 400 feet from the site and opposes the project, said that if the developer and the church are serious about affordable housing, “they can build 23 units in two-story buildings within zoning regulations.”

Pope added that the “current zoning regulations should not be altered to allow for this monstrosity in the middle of Farmers Boulevard.”

Johnson and several neighbors held a third rally Aug. 15 at the site of the project to oppose construction of the unit. She also said the association has sent more than 400 signed letters from community members to the BSA, the city board that regulates land use, development and construction.

The BSA is expected to make a determination by the end of next month, Johnson said.

She added that the same package of opposition to the project that was sent to the BSA members will now be forwarded to Melinda Katz, the borough president.

Construction cannot start until the BSA authorizes the building.

In case the board gives two thumbs up to the project, the fight will not be over.

“The community will move to the next level,” Johnson said. “We will fight it in court.”

Besides traffic congestion concerns, neighbors who disapprove of the church’s project said the building’s future residents would have a negative impact on PS 15, PS 36 and IS 59 because they are already filled to capacity.

Community Board 12 approved the church’s project 19-9 with eight abstentions. CB 12’s approval is non-binding.

The neighborhood is characterized by low-residential units, especially one- and two-story homes and local stores along Farmers Boulevard.

“We are continuing to take a stand,” Johnson said.

Reach reporter Juan Soto by e-mail at jsoto­@cngl­ocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Posted 12:00 am, August 23, 2014
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