Jamaica rezoning approved with modifications

The Jamaica Plan: Proposed Zoning with City Council Modifications, subject to adoption by the City Council by September 19, 2007, used with permission of the New York City Department of City Planning. All rights reserved.

Largest rezoning undertaken by City sent back to Commission for final approval. The City Council approved, with several significant modifications, the Planning Commission’s proposal to rezone 378 blocks in Jamaica, Queens. The Council’s modifications must now go to the Planning Commission for final approval.

The Jamaica Plan, considered the largest comprehensive rezoning plan proposed by the City, grew from pressure on the City by Queens Community Boards 8 and 12 to revitalize the area, one of Queens’ most significant transit hubs. Once a significant shopping and business center, downtown Jamaica began to decline in the early 1960s as automobile use increased and auto-accessible shopping centers in Long Island replaced it. The area then began to fall into neglect, and for years the only development came from government-funded construction projects like the JFK Air Train Station and the Archer Avenue Subway extension. Even with such significant government projects, vacant and derelict parcels remained and discouraged private investment. When City Planning started its rezoning study, it found the existing zoning in downtown Jamaica to be extremely restrictive for an area so well-served by public transportation.

City Planning’s rezoning proposal sought to encourage development by up-zoning downtown Jamaica’s core, and to protect established residential blocks by down-zoning the St. Alban’s, Hollis, Briarwood, Jamaica Estates, Jamaica Hill and South Jamaica areas. Along with the 368- block rezoning, the plan’s seven linked applications included text amendments to create zoning rules to foster development of a downtown Jamaica shopping district and to apply the City’s inclusionary housing program to 70 blocks in downtown Jamaica and along Hillside Avenue from 139th to 191st Streets, the largest application of inclusionary housing outside of Manhattan. The plan also called for the creation of an urban renewal area to allow the City to take property by eminent domain to achieve Jamaica’s revitalization. The urban renewal plan would apply to three blocks near the new JFK AirTran/LIRR station.

When it approved the plan in July, the Planning Commission modified the text and map amendments to address residents’ complaints about abrupt transitions from high to low-density zoning districts. The Commission’s modifications created new text to require that buildings located within 25 feet of a lower density district be limited in height to 35 feet and provide an eight-foot buffer between the new development and the lower-density district line.

The Council further modified the plan by proposing different zoning designations along most of Hillside Avenue and within the manufacturing- zoned area adjacent to the LIRR right-of-way. The original plan proposed to rezone most of Hillside Avenue to high-density R7X and R7A districts. The Council instead proposed lower density districts (R6A and R7A), slightly decreasing the size of as-of-right development. In another change, the Council voted to retain existing zoning near the LIRR right-of-way, rather than accept City Planning’s proposal to change the manufacturing zoning to allow an increase in the size of permitted manufacturing and light industrial development (M1-1 to M1-2).

The modified plan now waits for the Commission’s final okay.

ULURP Process:
Lead Agency: CPC, FEIS

Zoning Map Amendment
QN 8,Den’d, 36-0-0
QN 12,No vote taken
Boro. Pres.: App’d
Boro. Bd.:No vote

Text Amendment
QN 12, App’d, 17-16-2
Boro. Pres.: App’d

Urban Renewal Plan
QN 12,Den’d, 20-12-3
Boro. Pres.: App’d

Disposition of Property
QN 12,No vote taken
Boro. Pres.: App’d

Council: The Jamaica Plan (Aug. 22, 2007).

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