Owner-Initiated Rezoning Faces Community Board Opposition at City Planning

View of mixed-use development from Avery Avenue.

View of mixed-use development from Avery Avenue. Image Courtesy: Lin + Associates Architects.

Commercial and residential rezoning of entire block favored by half of block’s property owners in area zoned for manufacturing. Five property owners came together to apply for the rezoning of a block in Flushing, Queens. The block is bounded by Avery Avenue to the north, College Point Boulevard to the east, Fowler Avenue to the south and 131st Street to the west. The application requests a rezoning from M1-1 and M1-2 to C2-6A to facilitate development of a residential and commercial development that would encompass the entire block. The development would provide approximately 148,000 sq.ft. of retail space, 283 residential units, and 268 parking spaces. The development was designed by Lin + Associates Architects.

The five applicants collectively own approximately 85 percent of the property on the zoning block. There are five other property owners on the block that chose not to participate in the rezoning application. The existing establishments on the block vary; including a gas station, a poultry dealer, vacant lots, and one non-conforming residential use building. The block is bordered on the west and south by NYC Parks Department’s Corona Park and on the north by a Home Depot.

Queens Community Board 7 voted unanimously to disapprove of the proposal. The Community Board was concerned that although the development proposal is now five years old, there has not been an adequate explanation as to why five property owners have “opted out” of the process. Therefore, the Community Board was not convinced that the development plan would be achieved as proposed. The Community Board feared that the properties – conceivably more valuable as residential and commercial lots than as manufacturing lots – would be flipped, leading to disconnected development because of a lack of “economic or social harmony” between the property owners. Additionally, the Community Board cited tenants with building code violations and the applicants’ lack of development experience as further concerns over the block’s future. According to the Department of City Planning’s staff, Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall is expected to approve of the application.

View of mixed-use development from Fowler Avenue.

View of mixed-use development from Fowler Avenue.

At the City Planning Commission’s hearing on January 9, 2013, the Community Board reiterated their concerns and asked for a guarantee of the proposed development via a large scale development plan, special permits, or deed restrictions. The applicants’ representative, Patrick Jones, testified that there is no guarantee of development because the five non-participating owners are simply not participating in the land use process. However, Jones stated that they are continuously included in development discussions, though not every owner has agreed to the development plan yet. He assured the Commissioners that the applicants intend to follow through with the planned development. He also agreed with the Community Board’s assessment that some of the tenants are bad neighbors, citing an illegal nightclub and an ironworker’s repeated blockage of the sidewalk, but that these issues are being addressed by the owners. As for the applicants’ experience, he testified that the applicants have other buildings and one has full development experience, but that this information wasn’t brought up at the Community Board’s hearing because the application is only for a rezoning. A few of the applicants testified, offering their assurances that the development plan will be followed. A representative of local Council Member Peter Koo testified in support of the proposal, stating that the area is barren and ripe for residential and commercial development because of its proximity to Corona Park.

The City Planning Commission closed the hearing and has until February 28, 2013 to decide on the rezoning application.

CPC: Flushing Meadows East (C 070352 ZMQ – rezoning) (January 9, 2013) (Architect: Lin + Associates Architects).

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