New district created to curb development of Queens “McMansions.” On March 14, 2005, the Planning Commission unanimously approved the Bloomberg administration’s largest proposed down-zoning to date and a new citywide zoning district to be applied first to Bayside, a Queens neighborhood characterized predominantly by single-family detached homes. The approved 350-block down-zoning of Bayside, commenced at the urging of Council Member Tony Avella and local residents, seeks to end the rising development in Bayside of semi-detached homes, apartment buildings and oversized single-family homes referred to by the community as “McMansions.”
The Planning Department proposed to down-zone an area bounded generally by Francis Lewis Boulevard and Clearview Expressway to the west, the Cross Island Parkway to the east, 24th and 26th Avenues to the north and, on the south, by the Long Island Expressway.
A majority of the area to be rezoned, 240 of the 350 blocks, is currently zoned R2, which permits only single-family detached homes. In this area, developers had combined permitted floor area exemptions allowed for parking, laundry rooms or areas used for stair cases or elevator bulkheads to achieve out-of-scale homes. In several cases, the community believed the floor area exemptions were abused and following construction the exempted space was used as habitable living space. In addition, the district had set no height limit.
To curb the out-of-scale single-family homes, the Planning Department proposed to remove the floor area exemptions through the creation of an entirely new zoning district – an R2A district – that could be applied to Bayside and citywide. The new district would restrict the building size to 30 percent of the zoning lot, the building height to 35 ft. and the perimeter wall height to 21 ft. All of the floor area exemptions would be eliminated except for one 300 square-foot exemption for one, accessory off-street parking space. The use, yard and lot size requirements in the new district would be the same as an R2 district.
At the February 15, 2005 Planning Commission hearing, the president of the Queens Chapter of the American Institute of Architects complained that the R2A proposal would severely limit the expansion of existing homes in Bayside and requested that the rezoning be amended to increase the perimeter wall height to a level that would allow cellar windows. Chair Amanda M. Burden questioned if this revision would increase the possibility of illegal units in the cellar floor.
Finding that the new proposal struck a balance between protection of neighborhood character and the ability to expand existing homes, the Planning Commission approved the text without adopting the height change requested by the AIA.
ULURP Process: The Planning Commission, as lead agency, issued a negative declaration on November 1, 2004. Both Community Board 11 and Queens Borough President Helen Marshall approved, requesting amendments to allow gabled roofs and the increase to the perimeter wall height. The Council’s Land Use Committee approved the rezoning on April 5, 2005. The full Council will vote on it on April 12th.
CPC: Bayside Rezoning/R2A Text (N 050148(A) ZRY – citywide amendment to create R2A zone); (C 050149 ZMQ – Bayside rezoning) (March 14, 2005). CITYADMIN