Background, Commentary, Queens, zoning

Report from the Zoning presentation

After tonight’s zoning presentation, I am fairly well satisfied that the current proposal is a good one. The existing zoning requires developers to build too many parking spaces, and the proposal would reduce those requirements as much as is feasible.

I had a chance to talk briefly with Tom Smith, the planner who is most directly involved in this project. He pointed out that my R5B proposal would invite people to tear down existing single-family houses and replace them with multi-family homes that would then be required to have more than one space per lot, resulting in a net increase in cars. Essentially, the R4 and R4-1 zones are the best we can hope for without rewriting the zoning code.

The most promising prospect for reducing parking requirements would be to expand the “Long Island City subject area” (PDF) to include Sunnyside and Woodside. That’s a much bigger deal, though, and I can understand why they didn’t want to bring it up in this rezoning.

With regard to the zoning of Sunnyhills and the Phipps Gardens, Tom observed that any new development would essentially require “a gas explosion” and maybe an earthquake too, so I didn’t need to be concerned about that. In the current draft, Sunnyside Towers would be rezoned R6A, which conforms to its current use.

There is a proposal to amend the zoning code, which prohibits sidewalk cafes on any street with an elevated railroad, except for a specific list of streets. The amendment would add Queens Boulevard to that list, which makes a lot of sense because the el does not cover the street there. I fully support this part of the proposal. Lily Gavin was in attendance, and I mentioned that I look forward to eating al fresco at Dazie’s someday.

The other people who spoke had various objections and concerns. A couple of them agreed with me about reducing parking requirements. Al Volpe disagreed with me, but chose to take a bizarre dig at bicycles, which hadn’t been mentioned up to that point. Gert McDonald of the United Forties spoke about providing parking for everyone, but I was distracted while she was speaking, so I didn’t hear everything she said. If anyone else heard her argument, please fill me in.

A number of people, including Angel Gil and Sherry Gamlin, pointed to the crowding in the schools and asked if there was a way to get more school space to accommodate the increase in population. I agree completely: my son’s second grade classroom squeezes 29 kids into a trailer, and it makes things difficult. John Young from City Planning said that when the proposal is finalized it will include an estimate of the potential population increase, but he did not discuss any steps that could be taken to accommodate that increase, either with schools or with transit.

Young said that once the proposal is finalized, it will have to be reviewed by the Community Board, the Borough President, the City Planning Commission and the City Council. Each group will have to hold hearings, and the entire process takes around seven months. I will keep an eye on the proposals and try to make sure that no districts with high parking requirements creep in, but please let me know if you see any.

So far this looks like a good proposal. I appreciate the efforts of Jimmy Van Bramer and his staff, Joe Conley and the Community Board, and the City Planning staff, to make the process accessible and understandable to all.

grvsmth (Author)

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