Tag Archives: Windsor Oak

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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Residents unhappy over tax hikes on northeast Queens co-ops, condos


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo by Elijah Stewart

ELIJAH STEWART

Bayside-area residents say they are getting fed up with what they believe to be unfair tax increases on co-ops and condos throughout northeast Queens.

“They look at it as they might as well buy a house, which is a larger down payment, than come here and pay enormous amounts in taxes,” said John DePasquale, general manager at Alley Pond Owners Corp., a self-managed co-op in Bayside.  

The unhappy apartment owners say this problem stems from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s lack of action in pushing for a new state tax code that would eliminate the high tax increases on middle-class co-op and condo owners. They hope the next mayor will take action on the issue.

Warren Schreiber from the Presidents’ Co-ops & Condos Council, which represents more than 100,000 owners, said northeast Queens has been hit the hardest by the increased tax evaluations.

“There have been double-digit and in some cases triple-digit increases in tax evaluations,” said Schreiber.

The city Department of Finance lists private homes as Class 1 properties. This means their assessed value, which is set at six percent of the property’s market value, cannot be increased more than six percent a year.

However, co-ops and condos are listed in Class 2, along with rentals and other revenue streamed housing. Their assessment value is 45 percent of the property’s market value, and there is no cap on yearly assessment increases.

While the property tax code is a state law, it is up to the mayor to request changes to city tax classifications.

“Mayor Bloomberg and his predecessor Rudy Giuliani have always opposed changes in the classification system,” said State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky.

Stavisky said the property classification system for co-ops and condos is unfair and has led to inconsistencies in tax assessments throughout the city. She said she’s working closely with Assemblymember Edward Braunstein to address this issue.

“We’re just part of a middle class that continues to get squeezed harder and harder,” said Arthur Getzel, a teacher at P.S. 26.  Getzel, 59, said many co-ops in the area have been forced to charge higher maintenance fees due to increased tax assessments.

Kevin O’Brien, a recently retired co-op owner at Bell Park Gardens, agreed that the tax situation is unfair.

“If you go to any other co-op development here, Windsor Park, Windsor Oak, Hollis Court, they’re all going to say the same thing,” said O’Brien, 43. “They don’t understand why we’re paying so much property tax for a small number of square feet.”

Others worry about the effect on older owners.

“I think the tax increases are going to push the elderly people out,” said Jennifer Santaniello, 48, of Hollis Court. “I don’t think they’re going to be able to afford to live in Queens.”

A co-op since 1983, Hollis Court currently houses 376 families, according to Santaniello, and 60 percent of its residents are elderly.

Schreiber said the city’s co-ops and condos house tens of thousands of working-class people who are the backbone of the city.

“What many people don’t understand,” said Schreiber, “is that without the money from the co-ops and condos, the city would go bankrupt.”

 

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