Large rezoning in northeast Queens considered

Contextual plan would impact 418 blocks in Auburndale, Oakland Gardens, and Hollis Hills. On August 11, 2010, the City Planning Commission heard testimony on the Department of City Planning’s contextual rezoning proposal for 418 blocks in three communities in northeast Queens. The plan comprises the Auburndale subarea which is generally bounded by Station Road to the north, the Long Island Expressway to the south, Francis Lewis Boulevard to the east, and Kissena Park to the west; and the Oakland Gardens-Hollis Hills subarea which is generally bounded by the Long Island Expressway, the Grand Central Parkway, Alley Pond Park, and the Clearview Expressway. The proposal began its public review in May 2010. 7 CityLand 74 (June 15, 2010).

The rezoning area is characterized by suburban-style one- and two-family detached and semi-detached housing, but also includes larger multi-family apartments along the wider boulevards. The current zoning has remained unchanged since 1961 and permits a variety of building types that has resulted in out-of-context development in many of the areas characterized by single-family homes.

Planning would apply six contextual zoning districts, including R2A, R3X, R4B, and R5D, in order to preserve the lower-density character of blocks developed with detached and semi-detached homes. It would, however, allow a moderate increase in development along the area’s major thoroughfares. The proposal includes rezoning approximately two blocks in Oakland Gardens occupied by the Windsor Park Apartments from R4 to R5D and nine blocks adjacent to Alley Pond Park from R3-2 to R2A.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall supported the proposal, but requested that Planning rezone the nine blocks adjacent to Alley Pond Park to R3X rather than R2A. Marshall cited the concerns expressed by residents that the more restrictive R2A zoning, which only permits single-family detached homes, would not match the area’s built character and would also diminish property values by limiting future development.

At the Commission’s hearing, residents and community groups were divided. Auburndale residents and Council Member Daniel J. Halloran, whose district includes Auburndale, supported the plan, but asked the Commission to rezone a portion of Station Road not included in the proposal and zoned for manufacturing. Halloran said the area, known as the “T,” was occupied by auto repair businesses and “sits in the middle” of lower-density residential blocks. He acknowledged that Planning would likely need to undertake this action separately, but urged the Commission to rezone the area for residential uses in the future.

Residents in Oakland Gardens were divided on whether the proposed R2A district was appropriate for the area adjacent to Alley Pond Park. Joseph Rosenberg opposed the designation, testifying that it would be difficult to sell a home that could not be enlarged to accommodate two families. Lois Marbach, president of the Oakland Gardens/ Terrace Community Council, supported the plan, testifying that the R2A designation was necessary to end continued overdevelopment.

Residents of the Windsor Park Apartments also were divided on the appropriateness of rezoning the site from R4 to R5D. Opponents were concerned that if the site were rezoned the apartment complex’s expansion would eliminate parking and open space. Larry Kinitsky, president of the co-op board, noted that any proposal would require approval from the complex’s residents, and said redevelopment plans would include adequate parking.

The Commission has until October 5 to review the proposal.

CPC: Hearing on Auburndale-Oakland Gardens-Hollis Hills Rezoning (Aug. 11, 2010).

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