Tag Archives: BSA

Cuomo seeks Breezy Point elevation study, signs bill blocking ‘red tape’


| rpozarycki@queenscourier.com

Photo via Twitter/@NYGovCuomo

Along with signing a bill to keep “red tape” from strangling continued efforts to recover from Hurricane Sandy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced in Breezy Point on Friday that the state would embark on an elevation study for the area.

Located on the western tip of the Rockaway Peninsula, Breezy Point was one of the communities hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The neighborhood was flooded by the superstorm’s surge, and over 100 homes were destroyed by a wind-fueled inferno that firefighters were unable to reach and fight.

The community is still recovering nearly three years later, Cuomo noted, and the state is working to help fortify the shoreline with stronger dunes and seawalls. Even so, with weather patterns changing across the globe, the governor stressed that further planning and preparation are needed to prevent a repeat of Sandy’s destruction.

“I would love to be able to say to you that Sandy was one in a million and it’s never going to happen again. The problem is, I don’t believe that,” Cuomo said. “We are seeing weather patterns we have never seen before…I don’t care what you call it, but let’s prepare for it.”

Cuomo said he would seek funding for an elevation study to examine Breezy Point and see “what it would take to actually elevate the homes to a point where, if this happens again, we don’t have the same type of damage.”

“Let’s build back, but let’s build back better than before,” Cuomo added.

In the interim, Cuomo penned on Friday a bill granting a two-year extension to legislation waiving the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) requirements for Breezy Point homeowners still rebuilding their damaged properties. The bill — sponsored by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder and state Senator Joseph Addabbo — releases homeowners from being subject to an extensive review process that could take up to 18 months to complete.

Cuomo initially signed the bill in 2013, and last year penned his signature to a one-year extension. Goldfeder hopes that this two-year extension will allow Breezy Point “to finally nip this thing in the bud.”

“Nobody in Breezy Point has to worry about the red tape,” he said.

“We have businesses that are coming back. We have people coming back to their homes,” Addabbo added. “We are moving forward, but there is so much more to do.”

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Bayside and Oakland Gardens residents reject plan to replace wooded area with parking lot


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Bayside’s Community Board 11 rejected a developer’s request Monday night to build a parking lot on a pristine patch of land that runs along 77th Avenue after neighborhood residents banded together to stop the destruction of open space protected under decades-old zoning.

Oakland Gardens resident John Hatzopoulos spearheaded a grassroots effort since early February to save a piece of land that residents say gives the neighborhood its charm.

“We put a lot of hard work into spreading the news that they were trying to bring the trees down,” Hatzopoulos said. “But it was worth it. So many people came out to save the trees.”

The property owner, Windsor Oaks Tenants Corp., built a complex of co-ops in the 1950s along with a city agreement that they would leave a strip of land undeveloped. The land separates the co-ops from residential homes on 77th Avenue, where Hatzopoulos and his fellow troop of tree lovers live.

But the corporation tried to renegotiate its deal with the city in an attempt to turn the land into a community building and a parking lot, according to the request they submitted to Community Board 11.

Residents worried that the creation of a parking lot would destroy their quality of life, greatly increase traffic and make the area dangerous for their children.

The corporation did not return calls for comment but several representatives attended the meeting. They argued that the parking spaces are needed to fulfill their contractual obligation to provide parking spaces for the co-op’s residents.

But the community board ultimately rejected the corporation’s request and the decision will now be sent to Borough President Melinda Katz before it ultimately goes up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

“I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to fight this all the way up the government ladder,” said Hatzopoulos, speaking for the several hundred residents who signed a petition against the corporation’s request. “We care about these trees and no one has the right to take them away.”

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Oakland Gardens residents gain support in bid to save woodland


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

The tree huggers are gaining some political muscle.

A group of Oakland Gardens residents have been building support over the last few weeks to stop a developer’s plan to break a deal made with the city by paving over hundreds of trees and shrubbery in the area for a parking lot and community building.

Now they’ve gained the support of state Senator Tony Avella.

“I’m opposing it. I see no reason to support it,” said Avella, whose coverage area includes the endangered strip of trees that runs along 77th Street between Springfield Boulevard and 217th Street.

Avella continued, “There’s the issue of the effects this would have on the quality of life,” adding: “This may violate the original agreement.”

The 1,200-foot-long strip of land is owned by Windsor Oaks Tenants’ Corp., which also owns co-op buildings in the area. The agreement to keep the land forested was reached in 1950 when the city allowed the property owner to break several zoning laws to construct the co-ops that still stand today. In exchange, the corporation agreed to leave a strip of land undeveloped that separates the co-ops from several blocks of private homes on 77th Street.

But the corporation now wants to renegotiate its deal with the city that would allow them to  turn the woodland into a parking lot and a community building, according to city records.

“We just couldn’t believe that they are trying to take this beautiful piece of land away,” said John Hatzopoulos, who has lived in one of the private homes on 77th Avenue with the unbuilt land directly behind his home. “So you can imagine my joy when [Avella] decided to support our cause.”

Avella plans to meet with Hatzopoulos and several other residents who have been circulating a petition against the development.

“This application rubbed me the wrong way,” Avella said. “The opposition is very clear and strong. We have a great chance to defeat this.”

Community Board 11 will consider the corporation’s request on March 2 during a public meeting. The corporation wants to create a parking lot with 98 spaces with an entrance on Springfield Boulevard and a community building.

The decision will ultimately be up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

Windsor Oaks Tenants’ Corp. didn’t return calls for comment.

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Oakland Gardens residents fight plans to clear woodland for a parking lot


| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

A Queens developer really does want to pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

But a group of self-proclaimed tree huggers in Oakland Gardens — who know what they’ve got before it’s gone — are banding together to stop a developer’s plan to uproot hundreds of trees and shrubs from a strip of wilderness behind their homes.

The property owner, Windsor Oaks Tenants’ Corp., came to an agreement with the city in 1950 that allowed them to build co-ops in Oakland Gardens even though the co-ops broke several zoning laws, according to city records. In the agreement, Windsor Oaks agreed to not build on a strip of land they owned that separates the co-ops from several blocks of private homes.

Now, the corporation is trying to renegotiate its deal with the city that would allow them to  turn the wooded land into a parking lot and a community building, according to city records.

“I came to this neighborhood precisely because of this beautiful surrounding of trees with so many birds in them,” said John Hatzopoulos, who has lived in one of the private homes on 77th Avenue with the unbuilt land directly behind his home.

“So yes, you could definitely call me a tree hugger,” he continued.

This tree-filled divider is about 200 feet wide from north to south and more than 1,200 feet from west to east bordered by 217th Street and Springfield Boulevard.

Along with 300 people in the neighborhood who have signed a petition, Hatzopoulos is hoping to convince the city not to allow the agreement to be made. In a request made to Community Board 11, the corporation wants to create a parking lot with 98 spaces with an entrance on Springfield Boulevard and a community building.

In the original agreement of 1950, the city required the corporation to not only leave the area undeveloped but to also maintain a “ landscaped appearance” and that “the planting in the area shall be suitable and shall be maintained at all times in good condition.”

The emphasis on aesthetic was a requirement from the community but if the corporation succeeds in creating a new deal with the city, the area would undergo major construction.

“If that happens, we will have to move,” Hatzopoulos said. “I came to this area 20 years ago knowing that this spot cannot be developed. I saw that there was a deal made with the city and it couldn’t be broken. Who knew you could break deals with the government?”

Community Board 11 will weigh in on the corporation’s request at their meeting in March. It will ultimately be up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

The corporation didn’t return calls for comment.

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Board approves variances for 12-story hotel, 14-story office building in Flushing


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo rendering courtesy of Richard Lobel

A luxury hotel, under parent company InterContinental Hotels Group, may be coming to downtown Flushing.

Community Board 7 gave developer CA Plaza its advisory approval Monday to build a 12-story Hotel Indigo on Prince Street and a 14-story general office building on Main Street.

The board granted two variances to change the use of the office space from medical to general and to reduce the number of required parking spaces from 377 spots to 305.

Developers bought the 36-18 Main St. site in 2006, according to attorney Richard Lobel. They already had two special permits, approved by the board last November, to include a spa in the hotel and to build the office to 189 feet and the hotel to 154 feet.

The project now goes to the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) for the final green light, though the hearing has not yet been calendared.

Community board officials said the project is heavily dependent on whether the city decides to install a traffic light on 36th Avenue and Prince Street to ease traffic the development is expected to bring.

Construction is slated for 2015.

 

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Scobee Diner site plans move forward


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) has approved a variance that would pave the way for a new building at the former Scobee Diner site in Little Neck. 

The variance gives new owner Lion Bee Equities permission to move the vacant restaurant’s parking lot to the back of the property, converting some spaces in a residential zone to commercial spots.

Lion Bee Equities officials say the move, adopted Dec. 10 by the BSA , will improve safety and decrease traffic near the 252-29 Northern Blvd. site. It was given the green light last summer by Community Board 11 and then-Queens Borough President Helen Marshall.

Larger plans for the Great Neck-based company include demolishing the diner and transforming the site into a two-story mixed commercial and community facility with a CitiBank on the first floor and a dentist’s office on the second.

The CitiBank would include a drive-thru ATM with a Little Neck Parkway entrance. There will be 17 parking spaces in the new lot, including one handicapped space.

Scobee closed in 2010, when restaurant owners failed to reach agreement on purchasing the property from the landowners.

The plans will now go to the city’s Department of Buildings for review.

The department recently approved permits for E. Gluck Corp., a Long Island City-based watch manufacturer, to move into the long vacant site of the former Leviton building along Little Neck Parkway, according to Community Board 11.

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Medical center developers plan to take Astoria homeowners to court


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Developers of a nearly complete medical center in Astoria plan to take adjacent homeowners to court to gain key access to their backyards, residents said.

Pali Realty needs permission to enter the backyards of about five adjacent homes in order to wrap up an eight-story ambulatory care center project at 23-25 31st Street.

But dozens of residents, who say they have suffered foundation cracks and water damage since the project broke ground in late 2009, plan to adamantly deny them entrance.

“We don’t want them in our yards,” said homeowner Robert Draghi. “They have done severe damage to numerous houses and they refuse to even discuss settling damages. They never made a single offer to any of the homeowners.”

The company is prepared to gain access through a court order, according to a letter it sent the homeowners early last month.

Pali Realty wants no more than 60 days to waterproof and apply a cement stucco finish to the back wall of the medical center, the letter says.

The developer would need access to a four to six foot wide strip of land behind the building to erect scaffolding and remove piles of shoring steel.

It said it would obtain “additional insurance” to cover any potential damage to properties.
But Draghi, who has lived in his home for 13 years, said that promise has been made before.

“We have a letter from two years ago saying if any damages happen during construction, they would fix them,” he said. “They didn’t do that.”

Draghi said the homeowners would only grant Pali Realty access if developers formally agree to repair damages made since construction began.

The conflict between the two parties was exacerbated in late 2012 when developers said they accidentally extended a portion of the property an extra 10 feet without permits due to a “design error by the project architect.”

According to a Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) application, about 80 percent of the building was already completed when developers discovered the gaffe.

Pali Realty ultimately received a special permit in May from Community Board 1 and the BSA to lift a partial stop work order and continue construction.

An attorney representing Pali Realty declined to comment.

 

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Astoria residents say developer damaged their homes


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A towering medical center being built in Astoria has received a key permit from the city — despite complaints by neighbors who say the construction has caused their homes’ foundations to crumble.

“There are cracks everywhere, in every room, from the ceilings to walls,” said Robert Draghi, who lives behind the site of a future ambulatory care center on 31st Street. “The bricks are just breaking open.”

Developer Pali Realty received a special permit from the city’s Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) last week to continue building an eight-story medical facility at 23-25 31st Street.

The project was stalled in late 2012, when developers say they accidentally extended the property an extra 10 feet without permits due to a “design error by the project architect.” According to a BSA application, about 80 percent of the building had been completed when developers discovered the mistake.

After that, Pali Realty had to get consent from Community Board 1 and the BSA to lift a partial stop work order issued by the Department of Buildings. It received approval from both bodies by May 21.

Dozens of residents who live in five homes behind the colossal building said they have been dealing with foundation cracks and water damage since the project broke ground in late 2009. They have received little to no help from the developer, the residents added.

“The laws don’t really stand up for homeowners like us,” said Draghi, 47. “All the laws in the books support corporations.”

Resident John Sesumi said his homeowner’s insurance will not pay for damages. He added that his family has been trying to reach a settlement with the developer for years.

“We’re all for helping the community,” said Sesumi, 30. “We understand the need for a medical building. We just want our property to be back the way it was.”

According to Draghi, who has lived in his home for 13 years, Pali Realty and the construction company have been dodging liabilities, with both declining to make a settlement offer.

“This was our ‘grow old’ house. We never wanted to leave,” he said. “They ruined it.”

Under advisory stipulations by the community board, the developer is required to fix damages to the adjacent lands and agree to pay for any repairs.

An attorney representing Pali Realty did not return calls for comment as of press time.

“We just want them to take responsibility, expedite the claim with their insurance and start working this problem out,” said Lisa Draghi, Robert Draghi’s wife.

State Senator Tony Avella lambasted the city agencies during a press conference he set up with the homeowners in Astoria.

“The fact that this developer is being allowed to egregiously encroach onto and damage neighboring properties is a disgrace,” he said.

The senator was criticized in turn for stepping outside of his northeast district and into the territory of his borough president rival, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr.

“It’s no surprise that while Councilmember Vallone was at City Hall representing his district, Senator Avella and his Senate staff were continuing his never-ending campaign for higher office,” said Andrew Moesel, a spokesperson for the Vallone campaign.

“Councilmember Vallone has attempted to help resolve the situation without holding needless press conferences only meant to draw more attention to a political candidacy,” Moesel said.

 

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