Staten Island’s Sandy Ground area downzoned

Rezoning proposed to prevent attached homes in area settled by freed slaves in 1827. On February 3, 2010, the City Council approved State Senator Andrew J. Lanza’s rezoning proposal for the Sandy Ground neighborhood of Staten Island. Sandy Ground, also known as Rossville, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as one of the country’s oldest communities established by freed slaves. The rezoning impacts 35 blocks generally bounded by the West Shore Expressway to the north and west, Ramona Avenue to the south, and Lenevar and Alverson Avenues to the east.

The area is characterized predominantly by detached and semidetached homes, but over the past several years Sandy Ground has experienced an increase in the development of attached townhouses and multi-family buildings. The rezoning aims to prevent out-of-scale development by down-zoning the area from R3-2 to R3-1, a district that does not permit attached homes.

At the City Planning Commission’s hearing, Nicholas Polly, president of the Civic Association of the Sandy Ground Area, which helped create the proposal, said the neighborhood’s infrastructure was overburdened and the rezoning would stop out-of-character development. No one testified in opposition, and the Commission approved the plan.

At the Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee, members and supporters of Sandy Ground’s Rossville AME Zion Church testified in opposition. Reverend Janet H. Jones, the church’s pastor, claimed the rezoning would prevent the church from building a planned senior citizen housing project. When asked why no one from the church spoke at any of the prior public hearings, Reverend Jones responded that it was difficult to speak in an environment where their concerns “were not being heard.” Reverend Will Nichols, president of the Staten Island Council of Churches, citing a critical need for senior housing, asked the Council to reject the rezoning or delay it until the church completed its housing project. Council Member Vincent Ignizio, whose district includes Sandy Ground, expressed his support for the down-zoning and pledged to work with the church to help identify an alternative revenue stream for it or an “appropriate development” for its land.

The Subcommittee approved the rezoning, and the Land Use Committee and full Council followed suit, with only Council Member Charles Barron voting no.

ULURP Process
Lead Agency: CPC,Neg.Dec.
Comm.Bd.: SI 3,App’d, 35-0-0
Boro.Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 8-0-0
Council: App’d, 48-1-2

Council: Sandy Ground Rezoning (C 090042 ZMR – rezoning) (Feb. 3, 2010).

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