Tag Archives: Department of City Planning

Community boards OK rezoning for East Elmhurst, Corona


| aaltamirano@queenscourier.com

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Proposed rezoning of parts of East Elmhurst and Corona seems to be on track, with approvals from both Community Boards (CB) 3 and 4.

The Department of City Planning received the go-ahead from the boards — a first step since Commissioner Amanda Burden’s June 3 announcement of the beginning of the official public review process of a 127-block rezoning of East Elmhurst and 14 block fronts along Roosevelt Avenue in Corona.

The objective of the rezoning is to protect the current character of East Elmhurst’s residential blocks, which are made up of one- and two-family detached, semi-detached and attached homes.

“This rezoning, which was developed in close consultation with the community and local elected officials, will protect the cherished one- and two-family composition of this neighborhood,” said Burden.

The proposal also looks to update commercial overlays in order to reinforce the main commercial corridors, better reflect current land use trends and constrain commercial incursions onto residential streets. The rezoning will aim to strengthen the character of Astoria Boulevard and help it stand out from residential streets.

The 14 block fronts along Roosevelt Avenue that are included in the rezoning proposal will also help increase development in the area. For example it will allow the 82nd Street Partnership’s Jackson Heights-Corona Business Improvement District to provide services for the merchants and community on the busy strip.

“Though currently zoned for residential use, we’re seeing increased commercial activity along the stretch of Roosevelt Avenue from Elmhurst Avenue to 114th Street,” said Seth Taylor, executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership.

“The rezoning pairs nicely with the proposed Jackson Heights- Corona BID, which would promote local economic growth and be a positive force for the entire commercial corridor.”

The rezoning proposal will now be reviewed by the Borough Board, Borough President, the City Planning Commission and then the City Council.

 

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Department of City Planning approves National Tennis Center expansions


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

The Department of City Planning approved expansions at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Wednesday, May 22, pushing the project another step toward a final green light.

U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) officials want to expand the center’s campus in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park by 0.68 acres, build a new stadium and make renovations. The plan is headed to the City Council for the final vote on the project.

State Senators will not have to vote on the lost green space because the land in question is considered to be of little value.

Expansions at the Tennis Center have been met with opposition, as have two other projects involving the park. USTA was not originally required to give back any land lost in the project. But officials ultimately agreed to transfer ownership of two parcels of parkland USTA has been renting to the Parks Department.
Park advocates criticized the plan as giving back land that was already accessible to the public.

Western Queens to get more bike lanes


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Department of City Planning

Make way for the cyclists.

Residents and members of Community Board (CB) 5 have been brainstorming where to install bike lanes.
The Department of City Planning (DCP) met with CB 5 and residents of the neighborhood on Saturday, May 11.

“A lot of western Queens is tough for bike routes, but we’re going to try to do the best we can,” said CB 5 District Manager Gary Giordano.

The industrial area already has accomodation for bikes in Highland Park, Cypress Hills Street, Cooper Avenue, 78th Avenue, 79th Street and Forest Park. DCP is planning to install bike lanes in both directions along the Cooper Avenue underpass from 69th Drive to 74th Street.

Community members at Saturday’s meeting mooted areas along Dry Harbor Road, 80th Street, Elliot Avenue, Fresh Pond Road and Metropolitan Avenue. Some of those spots are major arteries congested with trucks, making it a challenge for CB 5 to accommodate bicyclists there. DCP is targeting areas where bikes will have minimal conflict with vehicles including trucks and cars.

With summer coming up and more people hopping into the saddle, Giordano said he hopes the community will have a better idea of where the bike lanes are going within a few months.

“You have more and more people riding bicycles these days,” he said.

Officials said the bike lanes are perfectly feasible and the routes will even be attractive. They added that lanes can be installed on both one- and two-way streets. They will either be shared lanes that put bicyclists on the road with vehicles or separate lanes to the side of the road.

For people going on longer rides, DCP and CB 5 are considering a connection from Grand Street to the Williamsburg Bridge in western Queens and a route from 62nd Road to Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in the east.

Now that the community has voiced its requests, DCP will study the feasibility of proposed routes and receive community board input. It will be up to the Department of Transportation to actually implement the routes. A timeline has not been established.

“We need to increasingly be concerned about the safety of the cyclists, the pedestrians and the drivers who have to look in all sorts of directions,” Giordano said.

 

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Approved Willets Point plan to go through rigorous review


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

File photo

Redevelopment of Willets Point will now go through a rigorous review process after its study was approved by the Department of City Planning (DCP).

The plan, approved by DCP on Monday, March 18, will first go to Community Board 7, which includes Willets Point, for an advisory vote. Borough President Helen Marshall will then get the plan for her own recommendation, followed by the City Council and DCP.

Between development at Willets Point and the addition of the shopping mall dubbed “Willets West,” the mixed use area will include housing, retail, hotels and an entertainment center.

Jesse Masyr, the project’s lawyer, said he’s confident the various levels of voters will jump on board with the plan, citing the environmental clean up that’s first on the project’s steps.

“It is a very, very significant effort and accomplishment,” he said, adding it would “reverse 50 years of unsuccessful attempts” to stop pollution in the area.

If the City Council ultimately rezones the area, the joint venture, between Related Companies and Sterling Equities, would begin by cleaning up the 23 acres commonly called the Iron Triangle. New York City has dedicated $100 million to removing spoiled soil and creating an infrastructure at Willets; the rest of the project is privately financed.

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has pushed for the project since updated plans were announced last June — much to the chagrin of some Willets Point business owners.

“This marks a critical step towards beginning the long-needed cleanup of toxic land in Willets Point that for years has damaged the waterfront and been a blight on the community,” a NYCEDC spokesperson said.

Opponents, however, are not confident in a fair process.

Michael Rikon, the lawyer for Willets Point United, said the city would probably approve the rezoning, and the seven-month approval process was merely a formality at this point.

This didn’t stop Rikon, however, from saying there were reasons why the project should be fought — including building Willets West on what is mapped as parkland.

“The whole thing and the whole process is a shame,” he said. “There could be 15 great reasons why there should be a condemnation on the plan.”

 

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Local boards mixed on National Tennis Center expansion


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of USTA

BY TERENCE M. CULLEN AND MELISSA CHAN

Six community boards are lobbing back and forth on approving the proposed expansion of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

The boards surrounding the park are required to vote on the .68 acres lost in the U.S. Tennis Association’s (USTA) plan to expand in the park. Their recommendations, which are solely advisory, then go to the Borough President, the City Council and the Department of City Planning.

So far, two community boards have voted against the expansion, and one has opted in favor of it.

Community Board 9 voted 22-20 against the plan, with one abstention, after a lengthy debate at its March 13 meeting. Board member Alex Blenkinsopp said he thought many voted against it to send a message that parkland should not be given up for expansion.

“I believe the majority of Community Board 9 voted the way we did because we’re concerned about the future of Flushing Meadows-Corona Park,” he said. “This would have set a worrying precedent. That land, once surrendered, will never come back. And I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want the National Tennis Center to live within its current footprint.”

Community Board 4 also voted down the expansion. However, it said it would approve it if the USTA meets nine requests, according to District Manager Christian Cassagnol. Some of the resolutions call for better park security, a $15 million trust fund exclusively for the park, and a $500,000 per year maintenance fund that would be overseen by members of different community boards.

Community Board 7 voted 30-6 in favor of the expansion, but members also had nine conditions. The board asked the USTA to establish a $15 million capital endowment fund and an annual $300,000 expense fund for sole Flushing Meadows-Corona Park maintenance.

All damaged trees, they said, must also be replaced within the park, and there must be substantial discount programs for seniors and children living nearby.

Community Board 7 also insisted National Anthem tryouts should be held in Queens. The USTA must also work with the Department of Parks to clean and maintain the property and mitigate traffic concerns.

“The reason why we voted [yes with conditions] is because we found out that even if they didn’t want to take our conditions, they came back to the table to talk to us,” said Community Board 7 Chair Eugene Kelty. “They had a meeting in our office. They asked us if they could come in and explain what was happening after the fact. They didn’t have to, but they did.”

Community Boards 3, 6 and 8 were scheduled to vote after The Courier went to press.

 

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Amendment to bring sidewalk cafes back to LIC


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of the Department of Consumer Affairs

Once hampered by noise complaints and numerous tickets, Manducatis Rustica owner Gianna Cerbone-Teoli is looking forward to resurrecting her Vernon Boulevard establishment’s sidewalk café.

“I’m ecstatic about it,” said Cerbone-Teoli. “It’s really nice to see people sitting outside on the street and it brings more people to the area.”

Presented at a community meeting by a representative from the Department of City Planning (DCP), restrictions preventing sidewalk cafes in Long Island City and Sunnyside Gardens will be lifted, pending approval from both the local Community Board and City Council.

Main and upcoming retail zones, including Vernon Boulevard, Borden Avenue, Jackson Avenue, 21st Street, Crescent Street, 44th Drive, Court Square and 43rd Avenue, will receive permission to add unenclosed sidewalk cafes to their storefronts if the amendment passes. According to the representative, longstanding LIC restaurant Waterfront Crab House was “grandfathered” under the arrangement. Riverview restaurant, already equipped with a sidewalk café, is not included in the plan because of its location on Center Boulevard, outside the designated zone.

Community Board 1 voted to approve the motion as long as the amendment allowed enclosed sidewalk cafes for those with appropriate clearance in front of their business. Enclosed sidewalk cafes are currently not included under the revision.

According to the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), the fee for an unenclosed two-year sidewalk café license is $510 in addition to a consent fee to use the public sidewalk and a security deposit. Businesses hoping to institute an enclosed café must also pay a city planning fee, varying depending on size, zone and the type of café.
Alcohol may be served in sidewalk cafes if the restaurant has obtained a license from the State Liquor Authority (SLA) and beverages are distributed only by a server.

According to Arthur Rosenfield, president of the Long Island City/Astoria Chamber of Commerce, nearby commercial strips in Astoria, such as Broadway, 30th Avenue and Ditmars Boulevard, have seen a boom in business since the installation of outdoor dining spaces.

“People like [sidewalk cafes] and the business and restaurants need to have that kind of additional presence for economic reasons,” said Rosenfield. “They need it for revenue and to be attractive – the European-style cafés are very attractive to people and they’re bringing people to the neighborhood. It’s very positive for the community.”

 

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Community Board 11: Potential ferry good, just not here


| mchan@queenscourier.com

The city’s plans to push for ferry piers in metro waterfronts would not sail well with a local community board if the Bayside Marina is chosen as a landing site.

Community Board 11 voiced concerns against the Department of City Planning’s (DCP) proposed revisions to its Waterfront Revitalization Program (WRP), which includes plans to install ferry landings throughout the five boroughs.

District Manager Susan Seinfeld said the community board supports the citywide initiative for mass waterfront transportation, but felt the potential location of a ferry terminal at the Bayside Marina would have a negative impact on residents directly across the marina, as well as Little Neck Bay.

“This is all hypothetical because no one said there would be a ferry there,” Seinfeld said. “What [the community board] is saying is that if there was a proposal for a ferry there, that would be a problem.”

Seinfeld said Little Neck Bay waters are too shallow for ferries to safely travel through. There is also no place for vehicles to park at the Bayside Marina, she said.

“[The community board] did not believe that it was a logical place should anyone propose it,” Seinfeld said.

A DCP spokesperson said there is no ferry proposal for Little Neck Bay.

The WRP is the city’s key coastal zone management tool, establishing the city’s policies for development and waterfront use. A new, comprehensive waterfront plan was reissued by the DCP in early 2011 to lay out a 10 year blueprint of the future of the city’s waterfront, which includes creating and mapping a new designation to be called the “Priority Marine Activity Zone” to promote waterborne transportation such as piers for ferry landings.

Community Boards 2 and 8 voted to approve the proposed revisions during a June 28 public hearing held by Borough President Helen Marshall.

Rezoning will preserve character of Woodhaven, Richmond Hill


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Parts or all of 229 blocks in Woodhaven and south Richmond Hill will be rezoned, after the city council approved the divisive plans to preserve the character of the neighborhoods.

The new area, approved on Wednesday, July 25, is mainly bordered by Park Lane to the north; 103rd Avenue to the south; Eldert Lane to the west; and the Van Wyck Expressway to the east.

Residential zones R3-1 and R5 will remain in tact, according to the Department of City Planning. R3-1 is mostly north of Atlantic Avenue; R5 includes most of Atlantic and south of the avenue.

Jamaica and Atlantic avenues will be designated as commercial corridors, with the department citing easy accessibility to the streets via mass transit.

There had not been redistricting in the neighborhoods since the early 1960s, officials and residents said.

Community Board 9 had raised concerns years ago that one- and two-story homes were being bought and demolished, according to City Planning, and disproportionate buildings put up in their place.

“Hopefully it stabilizes the neighborhood,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of Community Board 9.

City Planning announced in late February that the department was reviewing the area in order to update the nearly 50-year-old map.

Commissioner Amanda M. Burden said in a statement earlier this year that rezoning would help adjust to the population and commercial growth Woodhaven and Richmond Hill have experienced over the years.

“The Woodhaven and Richmond Hill neighborhoods in Queens are characterized by very appealing one- and two-family wood-frame homes built in a variety of traditional styles,” Burden said. “The neighborhoods have seen their populations grow in recent years but due to antiquated zoning, they are experiencing growth in the wrong places.”

Local artists angry over plans for 5Pointz


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo by Alex DiBlasi

Taggers armed with cans of spray paint who flocked to leave their mark on the paint-laden walls of graffiti mecca 5Pointz may soon be searching for another canvas.

The 200,000-square-foot Long Island City graffiti art exhibition space, home to over 350 multicolored murals, could soon be knocked down in favor of building two high-rise apartment complexes.

“We’ve been waiting for this sort of transformation,” said building owner David Wolkoff. “We saw it happening a long time ago because of its proximity to Manhattan. We knew that Long Island City was going to transform at some point and now it’s happening at a rapid pace.”

According to Wolkoff — whose family’s business has owned the 5Pointz property for 40 years – the new structure will include dual rental towers equaling approximately one-million-square-feet, outfitted with state-of-the-art amenities including a gymnasium, pool and media rooms. The structure, expected to be completed by 2016, will also boast retail space.

“We have a very good feeling about the project and the likelihood we’ll get the changes we’re looking for,” said Wolkoff. “Nothing is 100 percent certain. I think the neighborhood is very positive about the project. A project like mine will bring life to the area. I think Long Island City is ready for it.”

While Wolkoff believes the development will benefit the neighborhood, area artists are upset at the alterations.

“Now everyone wants to be in LIC and everyone who created it is going to be kicked out,” said local artist Carolina Penafiel. “Changes are good but when they change history it’s screwed up. Everyone new is coming and the old ones are leaving.”

Wolkoff claims the building plans include keeping walls in place where graffiti artists can continue their craft, as well as opening two 1,200-square-foot open art studios.

“There will at least be a link to what it was at one point,” said Wolkoff. “We love the art that’s on the walls and we want to continue that.”

5Pointz, which earned its name by bringing together the five boroughs of New York City, attracts aerosol artists from across the country as well as the Netherlands, Japan and Brazil. Hip-hop artists and singers — enamored by the site’s visual stimuli — including Doug E. Fresh, Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Kaz, Mobb Deep and Joss Stone, found creative ignition inside the abandoned factory.

According to a representative from the Department of City Planning, an application to demolish and rebuild at the current 5Pointz location has yet to be submitted.

Resisting rezoning Richmond Hill


| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of Ed Wendell.

While some local leaders laud the city’s plan to rezone Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, one local business organization said it would negatively impact and cap the growth of the community.

According to a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning, plans to rezone stem from concerns raised by Community Board 9, local civic organizations and area elected officials who say that existing zoning — which has remained unchanged since 1961 — does not closely reflect established building patterns or guide new development to appropriate locations.

Therefore, the Department of City Planning is looking to rezone 231 blocks of Richmond Hill and Woodhaven to reinforce the predominant one- and two-family homes that are characteristic of the community, while redirecting new residential and mixed-use development opportunities to locations along the area’s main commercial corridors near mass transit resources.

“The whole idea of rezoning is to keep neighborhoods stable, safe and healthy,” said Andrea Crawford, chair of Community Board 9. “It’s about maintaining the character of the neighborhood. If you start to tear down the single family and two family homes to put up larger, multiple dwellings, the infrastructure can’t support it, and the school system can’t support it. It makes the area so overly-dense that the neighborhood spills out onto itself. It explodes at the seams.”

The plan also deters expansion in a neighborhood that already struggles with lack of space and overcrowding, said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA).

“Through a residential point of view, expansion takes away parking, and it cripples our services, crowds our schools, and creates more garbage and noise,” he said. “You do not want areas currently zoned for two-family homes to suddenly spring up with large apartment buildings. That’s a no-brainer.”

Wendell said many of the neighborhood’s problems frequently get tied back to overcrowding, including increased noise, fights, garbage and lack of parking.

“We are absolutely in favor of anything that would help cut down on overcrowding,” he said.

Still, Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, said the plan would limit the capacity to build in the neighborhood — subsequently keeping families from growing.

“The community keeps expanding,” he said. “How can you reduce the capacity of the community? The community board needs to review the census data and make it relevant to the zoning.”

Mahadeo said he has a petition with over 2,000 signatures from residents who do not want to be “down-zoned.”

But Crawford said “it’s not down-zoning anything.”

“It’s zoning to correct the neighborhood,” she said, adding that the majority of people against the plan are landlords looking to tear down homes to put up large apartment complexes. “There are many people who live here and support it. They bought into a neighborhood, and they wanted a specific style of the neighborhood. We’re not saying don’t allow for larger structures. We’re saying it has to be sensible, and this does reflect what is necessary and what is allowable.”

The Department of City Planning is currently conducting community outreach meetings on a proposal prior to initiating the formal public review process, which can take up to seven months. The city agency will speak to residents on January 21 at WRBA’s monthly meeting.