Tag Archives: variance

BP Katz holds hearing on Bayside car dealership

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated Friday, Sept. 19

Members of the Bayside community urged Borough President Melinda Katz to uphold Community Board 11’s decision to remove a Star Toyota and Scion dealership from the area during a hearing Thursday morning.

“For 40 years, this business has been a bad neighbor,” a community board 11 member said. “There’s excess noise in the night and in the day. Unlicensed cars constantly speed through the neighborhood, blowing every stop sign.”

Katz didn’t make a decision during the meeting but she remained skeptical that the dealership was sincere about responding to the community’s complaints about broken sidewalks, trash and fixing the fence.

The dealership’s manager, Michael Koufakis, didn’t attend the meeting but his lawyer, Todd Dale, said that all of the issues that the community raised were addressed.

“When presented with these problems, we took care of it,” he said, referring to the broken sidewalks and fence and all of the trash in the area.

“I find that, as borough president, people clean up right before these meetings and then they go back to their bad habits afterwards,” Katz said.

According to Katz’s spokesman, the borough president will make a decision to either allow the variance to be renewed or echo Community Board 11’s decision. She plans on making her decision before the case goes to the Board of Appeals (BSA), the last stop before a final decision is made. The variance allows the business to operate in a residential zone as long as it cooperates with the community board.

Neighbors of the dealership hope that the BSA and Katz will reject the variance application.

Rennie Xosa lives behind the dealership’s parking lot. He, as well as community board members, said that the lot is used by the dealership to showcase cars to customers, an act that would be illegal under the business’ zoning rules.

“I have this beautiful backyard but I often can’t use it because there are people over there checking the car alarm system, honking the horn, testing how loud the radio goes and all of these other things that shouldn’t be going on there,” Xosa said. “I won’t let these people kick me out of my own neighborhood. I’m staying here and fighting them.”


Bayside residents tell car dealership to hit the road

| ejankiewicz@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz

Updated Wednesday, Sept. 17, 4:38 p.m.

Community Board 11 unanimously refused to renew a zoning variance that allowed a Bayside Toyota dealership to operate in a residential area after neighbors complained.

Star Toyota and Scion has been operating on Northern Boulevard for 40 years with the variance, but locals want the dealership gone for being, according to one board member, a “bad neighbor.”

“The community wants them removed because they don’t respect us,” said board member Steven Behar. “It’s as simple as that.”

Residents complained that the dealership parked their cars on residential streets and illegally dumped garbage in the neighborhood.

As a requirement of the variance, the dealership must meet with the community board every 10 years so their business can be reviewed.

After reviewing the business this time, the board decided to act on the complaints and vote down the renewal.

There are two more steps in the process: Borough President Melinda Katz is expected to announce a decision on Sept. 18 and, if she supports the community board’s decision, the Board of Standards and Appeals will make a final decision.

“We’re hoping that with the new [mayoral] administration and a real show of community support, we can have the BSA do what’s right for the community,” Behar said. “We’ve tried to solve this with them but they wouldn’t work with us so now it’s come to this.”

But Michael Koufakis, the dealership’s manager, said he’s open to the community’s complaints.

“I’m here every day. If anyone has any concerns, they can call me and I’ll make a reasonable effort to resolve it,” he said. “We will be addressing some of the issues that came to our attention through the community board.”

Further west on Northern Boulevard, a Flushing real estate business attempted to remove a condition in a similar variance.

Paul Luciano, owner of Utopia Real Estate, asked Community Board 7 to remove a restriction contained in the variance that prevents the building’s owner from making any alterations without the board’s permission.

But the board voted to maintain its power over the business, which has been in Flushing since 1957, by keeping the conditions of the variance in place.

“They [the community board] just want to hold the power over us for no reason,” Luciano said.
But locals said they feared changes would alter the nature of the neighborhood.

“If we’re not careful, our area will start to look like Main Street,” resident Terri Pouymari said.


Bayside Hills home granted variance, community outaged

| bdoda@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of The Queens Courier

Despite months of rallying by local residents, politicians and Community Board 11 against a land variance request in Bayside Hills, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) unanimously voted recently in favor of what many believe to be a precedent setting matter.

Michael Feiner, Bayside Hills Civic Association president, has been uniting the opposition against land owner Rockchapel Realty, LLC who has planned on developing the lot next to 50-20 216th Street into a two-bedroom rental home since January. According to the BSA decision, disapproval was recommended by Community Board 11, Borough President Helen Marshall, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmember Dan Halloran, State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember David Weprin.

“In my 25 years of being involved with our Civic Association, no issue has ever come my way that looked this cut and dry; a house just doesn’t belong at that location for zillions of reasons,” said Feiner.

Those cited reasons for opposition included the site being too small to accommodate a second home and being out of context with the surrounding neighborhood. The original lot –which already has a two-story home – was divided into two lots with a vacant triangular corner to be used for the new project. A variance had to be filed since the existing R2A zoning in the area prohibits the construction of a second house due to the small size of the plot on which the house is to be built. Currently, the plot is a garden.

According to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Community Board 11, Rockchapel Realty took advantage of a technical zoning resolution, which “probably should be changed.”

“In certain residential communities, properties should not be allowed to be divided into tax lots which are smaller,” said Seinfeld.

With the BSA decision resulting in a 5-0 vote, there are limited options for the mass opposition.

“As for an appeal, it would be very difficult but I plan to find out how it could be done,” said Feiner. “I understand in rare cases there were successful appeals, but the cards are really stacked against us in this instance.”

Neighbors on the block had different views on the proposed development, which does not yet have a start date.

“My opinion will depend on what the house will look like once it’s built,” said Wyakeena Tse.

Raymond Porfilio had a different take:

“It’s a disgrace. The BSA basically disregarded the community’s desires and the zoning laws. This is an area where the zoning laws prohibit that kind of structure. BSA granted a waiver to a developer who has no interest in the community and doesn’t have a large enough property to put a house in there. We’re not going to give up fighting.”

Attempts to reach Rockchapel Realty, LLC or the developer’s architect Paul Bonfilio were unsuccessful.