Far Rockaway rezoning allows larger and smaller homes

Developers and residents claimed rezoning was racially motivated. On September 15, 2005, the City Council approved a zoning map amendment to rezone a 21- block area encompassing Mott Creek and the West Lawrence section of Far Rockaway in Queens. The proposal was initiated by area residents concerned about their community’s over-development.

It called for the rezoning of an area bounded by Hicksville Road to the north, Beach 9th Street and Beach 6th Street to the west, Seagirt Avenue and the Far Rockaway Inlet to the south, and the Nassau County line to the east. Under the proposal, the area north of Seagirt Boulevard was rezoned from R3-1 to R4-1 to allow larger residential buildings and decrease the lot size requirement. South of Seagirt Boulevard was down-zoned from R5 to R4A and R3X.

At the September 7, 2005 hearing before the Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises, area residents and developers spoke in opposition of the rezoning, arguing that it was racially motivated to prevent minorities from moving into the area. Several of the witnesses mentioned specific incidents of discrimination and commented that they felt the proposal was being accelerated.

Subcommittee Chair Tony Avella claimed that this was the worst example he had seen of developers trying to beat the clock before a rezoning and said that illegal and unsafe construction in the area was putting residents in jeopardy. Avella expressed surprise about the opposition to the proposal, considering Far Rockaway was being up-zoned, and said that the need to act quickly was in recognition that something needed to be done before a community was lost to over-development. Before recommending approval, Avella stated that he doubted the rezoning was racially motivated. The Subcommittee approved.

At the September 8, 2005 Land Use Committee hearing, Council Member James Sanders, Jr., representative of the area, stated that he continued to denounce racism and bigotry in his district, but that he felt both the down-zoning and the upzoning were necessary and should be looked at separately. He added that there was danger in buying into the developers’ arguments when presented in the context of down-zonings, which he felt were the number one issue facing communities in the city. The full Council approved at the stated meeting on September 15, 2005.

ULURP Process: The Planning Commission, as lead agency, issued a negative declaration on June 20, 2005. Queens Community Board 14 and Borough President Helen Marshall approved.

Following an August 10, 2005 hearing, the Commission approved on August 24th with Commissioner Karen A. Phillips abstaining from the vote. Phillips commented that she felt the Commission accelerated the approval to stop undergoing development. Disagreeing with this action, Phillips commented that the “Commission was not a policing agency.” The Commission found that the rezoning was consistent with the existing neighborhood context and infrastructure, and would produce new development that would be more characteristic of the low-density, detached housing found in Mott Creek.

Council: Far Rockaway & Mott Creek Rezoning (September 15, 2005); CPC: Far Rockaway & Mott Creek Rezoning (C 050511 ZMQ – map amendment) (August 24, 2005). CITYADMIN

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