Mixed-use building seeks to bring residential and commercial space, but residents do not agree. On May 23, 2018, the City Planning Commission held a public hearing on the 40-31 82nd Street Rezoning application by The Heskel Group under representation by Nora Martins of Akerman LLP. The application seeks a zoning map amendment and zoning text amendment to develop a mixed-use building with residential, commercial, and community facility space in a currently vacant lot. The project site is located along Ithaca Street, Baxter Avenue and 82nd Street in Elmhurst, Queens.
Applicants plan to improve the site with a 13-story building with a two-story commercial base and 120 residential units on the top eleven floors. The building will have a total of 140,373 square feet floor area or just under a 6.0 FAR. The building will include a cellar and a sub cellar. The cellar will be leased for retail use to Target Express, a smaller version of the retail store. A parking garage will be located in the sub cellar with 128 parking spaces to help reduce the need for on-street parking in the neighborhood and open to the public. The ground floor will be used for retail use and community organizations offering services to the community.
Currently, the project site is within the 82nd Street Business Improvement District and zoned as a residential district with commercial use on ground floors. The application would rezone the site to a commercial use zone with an equivalent residential zone with a maximum height limit of 145 feet. The zoning text amendment would establish a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing area under Option 1 with a Deep Affordability Option. More than half of the units are proposed to be two- and three-bedroom units.
The zoning text amendment would allow for 20% of the floor area or 24 units to be affordable at an average of 40% of AMI in the area. The AMI for the neighborhood is currently $44,000. In addition, the applicants has worked with Queens Community Board 4 and Council Member Francisco Moya to include 15% of the floor area or 18 units at AMI levels ranging from 50% to 80%.
Queens Community Board 4 voted against the application during a meeting on March 13, 2018 attended by more than 100 residents. Community members raised concerns that the project would increase real estate prices, increase traffic on the streets, and affect small businesses in the area. Other concerns included the potential traffic effects on the surrounding area. Specifically, the project site is located near the Elmhurst Hospital and there are concerns on how an increase in traffic would affect ambulances coming in and out of the hospital, potentially slowing EMS response times.
Similar concerns were raised by Commissioner Larisa Ortiz regarding the impact of the parking lot entrance and exit on traffic on Baxter Avenue and the ambulance routes. Attorney Nora Martins advice that while Baxter Avenue is a narrow street, ambulances would only travel out of the hospital through Baxter Avenue but would use another street coming back since Baxter is a one-way northbound street. No one from the hospital was present at the hearing to speak on the concerns regarding the ambulance routes.
A representative from Queens Neighborhood United, a community-based organization, spoke in opposition of the application noting that the lease with Target Express would prohibit businesses, even those who do not compete with Target such as secondhand stores, groceries, and pharmacies, from occupying the commercial. The representative stated that the lease “explicitly excludes the majority of immigrant run small businesses that currently thrive in the area.” When asked how she obtained the details of the Target lease, the representative stated that it was listed online.
Speakers in favor of the application at the public hearing stated that the application would increase job opportunities in the neighborhood.
Martins advice the Commission of applicant’s commitments to not build a hotel and support local hiring efforts.
By: Dorichel Rodriguez (Dorichel is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2017.)