Queens Auto Dealership Seeks Rezoning For Mixed-Use Development

Rendering of proposed development Image Credit: City Planning

Major World strives for residential development on Northern Boulevard. On September 25, 2019, City Planning unanimously approved an application to rezone the property located at 44-01 Northern Boulevard in Long Island City, Queens. The applicant, 44-01 Northern Boulevard, LLC (also known as Major World), seeks to change the zoning from a manufacturing district to allow for a ten-story mixed-use residential development. The site is currently an Auto World sales site, showroom and garage.

The application proposes approximately 335 residential units with approximately 100 units dedicated to permanently affordable housing, 36,000 square feet of ground floor retail and approximately 156 parking spaces (36 commercial spaces and 120 residential accessory parking spaces). Thirty percent of the units will be at 80 percent area median income. The applicant seeks to continue operating his automobile dealership on the first floor but would discontinue running a garage.

The building features two portions of varying heights situated directly north of Northern Boulevard, south of 34th Avenue, east of 44th Street and west of 45th Street. The ten-story portion of the building runs along Northern Boulevard and extends down parts of 44th street and 45th Street. The four-story portion will continue along 44th Street.

Directly north of the lot, continuing down 44th and 45th street and along 34th Ave, there are several five and six-story elevator buildings.  Across Northern Boulevard to the south are multiple car dealerships, including another Major World and a City Buick GMC. Directly east, on the corner of 45th Street and Northern Boulevard, is a 2-story, 45,448 square foot commercial building. Located west and across 44th Street is the Hyundai of Long Island car dealership and several attached and semi-detached multifamily buildings.

The proposed zoning map amendment requests to change a light manufacturing district to a residential district with a commercial overlay. This permits mixed-use buildings. The proposed R7X and R6B residential districts are medium density contextual districts designed to produce quality housing buildings. The Quality Housing Program encourages development consistent with the character of established neighborhoods, sets height limits and requires amenities relating to interior space, recreation areas and landscaping. Contextual district regulate the height and bulk of new buildings, ensuring a form consistent with the scale and character of the neighborhood. The commercial overlay will accommodate the dealership.

Zoning Map of Site Image Credit: City Planning Akerman LLP

The R7X designation allows Floor Area Ratio of 6.0 and a maximum height of 145 feet or 14-stories, when accounting for a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing bonus. The R7X designation provides more flexibility in the building envelope than smaller, yet similar R7D, R7B and R7A designations.

Queen’s Community Board 1 conditionally approved the application with a recommendation that 15% of the units are priced at 60% area median income. The community board report questioned why the applicant would request the R7X designation when the presented design appeared to comply with R7D regulations. R7D districts permit a maximum FAR of 5.6 and heights of 115 feet or 11-stories. The report cited concern about setting zoning precedents that could change the character of the neighborhood.

Queens Borough President Melinda Katz also approved the application with a recommendation to provide affordable housing that will better match the income levels of the residents in the area. Her concern is that the area median income percentages are drawn from a wider region and are inconsistent with the incomes of the neighborhood.

Richard Bass from Akerman LLP represented 44-01 Northern Boulevard, LLC at the public hearing on August, 29, 2019. Commissioner Anna Hayes Levin questioned whether an R7D district would be more appropriate. Commissioner Levin’s inquiry was prompted by Queens Community Board 1’s report and another recent Northern Boulevard application that lowered the rezoning from an R7X to an R7D.

In response, Bass claims that an R7D was considered, but it would not have a significant visual effect on the building’s massing. He stated that it would essentially decrease the building from ten stories to nine stories. This would in turn and reduce the total residential units by 23 or 24 units, seven or eight of which permanently affordable. Bass also took some issue in the manner in which the report was written, as the Queens Community Board 1 approved application 23 to eight and one abstaining.

This application will be voted on by City Council on a later date.

By: Jason Rogovich (Jason Rogovich is the CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2019)



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