Queens Rezoning of Shopping Center Site Would Expand Types of Commercial Uses of Site [Council Land Use Committee Approves Plan]

Map of the Braddock-Hillside Rezoning. Image Credit: CPC.

Map of the Braddock-Hillside Rezoning. Image Credit: CPC.

See Below for Update

City Planning Commission approved a zoning map amendment to facilitate broader commercial uses of the property.On March 5, 2014, the City Planning Commission unanimously approved an application submitted by DERP Associates, LLC, for a zoning map amendment to rezone to a C4-1 district a portion of an R3-2 district and an R3-2/C2-2 district, located at 220-05 Hillside Avenue in Queens. Currently at the site is a shopping center occupied by a Sears Appliance & Hardware Store, an HSBC Bank, and an AutoZone retail store. The rezoning would facilitate a wider range of commercial. The rezoning would also extend the district boundary line 25 feet to the west. This extension would remove reliance on a Board of Standards and Appeals special permit issued in 1991 which allowed nonconforming commercial uses at this location.

The City Planning Commission held a public hearing for the application on February 5, 2014. Richard Lobel of Sheldon Lobel PC explained on behalf of DERP Associates that the intent of the zoning change was to broaden as-of-right commercial uses to “provide greater leasing flexibility and enhance the future economic viability of the shopping center.” Lobel noted that under the existing C2-2 commercial overlay, the site is “limited to uses such as hardware stores or athletic good stores.” The proposed zoning change to a C4-1 would permit Use Groups 10 and 12 and allow department, furniture, and appliance retail uses. Lobel argued that the enhanced use flexibility would be particularly beneficial because the current tenant, Sears, is in “somewhat financial distress.” Lobel stated that “this zoning is about is the ability for the owner to get new tenants into the larger space, like a TJ Maxx or Marshalls, which would allow the property to remain productive going forward.” The Commission report stated that DERP Associates “does not intend to alter the existing building or to construct a new building.”

The surrounding area is zoned with R2 and R3-2 districts, with C1-2 and C2-2 commercial overlays mapped along the major thoroughfares, including Hillside Avenue. Immediately west to the area to be rezoned is the Grand Central Parkway. Immediately north of the rezoning area is a two-story garden apartment cooperative development known as Bell Park Manor Terrace, comprised of 50 residential buildings and 850 apartments on 47 acres of property.  The thoroughfares to the south and east of the rezoning area are predominately developed with single-story food establishments, such as Taco Bell and Pizza Hut.

During the City Planning hearing, Commissioner Michelle De La Uz noted that the rezoning would also allow for increased residential density, and asked whether the applicant intended to make use of those changes. Lobel responded that although there are changes to the residential requirements, the applicant would not make use of any additional residential allowances because the site is “an extremely commercial thoroughfare.”

Queens Community Board 13 held a public hearing on December 16, 2013, and adopted a resolution recommending approval of the application. Queens Borough President Melinda Katz issued a recommendation approving the application on January 21, 2014.

The application will be heard by the City Council’s Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.  The site is in Council Member Mark Weprin’s district who chairs this committee.  Council Member Weprin is in favor of the application. Weprin stated, “this location for years was empty and vacant, and that the developer has done a good job bringing in businesses.” The Council Member supports giving the developer the ability “to expand the retail options for the site.”

Update (4/3/2014): On April 1, 2014, the City Council Land Use Subcommittee on Zoning and Franchises heard the application.  Council Member Mark Weprin stated that the rezoning site, which is located fairly close to where he lives, was an empty lot before the shopping complex was built in 1997 and “an area that the community hated.” Council Member Weprin said that the “community is very happy that this opens up options for what kind of stores” can lease the site. The subcommittee voted 9-0 to approve the application the same day.  The full Land Use Committee approved the re-zoning on April 3, 2014.

CPC: Braddock-Hillside Rezoning (C 140037 ZMQ – Zoning map amendment) (March 5, 2014).

By: Jennifer Baek (Jennifer is a CityLaw Fellow and New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2013).

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