2001-08-11 / Front Page

It’s Miller Time! Controversy Hits 94th Street By Gary G. Toms

It’s Miller Time! Controversy Hits 94th Street By Gary G. Toms

In the last two weeks, The Wave office has been flooded with phone calls from concerned residents wanting to know what is being constructed on Beach 94 Street behind the library.

Residents are speculating that low-income housing developments are being built in the area, and these rumors have created a firestorm of controversy for inhabitants along that section of Rockaway.

"If it’s going to bring down the community in any way, they may as well get it the hell out of here. The last thing Rockaway needs is more low-income housing," stated one long- time resident who lives near the construction site.

After placing several calls to Community Board 14, Jonathan Gaska, the Board’s District Manager, was finally able to provide a few answers on the mysterious construction that is taking place on Beach 94 Street.

"Jonathan Miller, a successful developer, has presented us with plans for the construction of three-story garden apartments, 92 units, at the site in question. They will consist of 2 and 3 bedroom apartments, which will range in price from $1,000 to $1,300 per month. Clearly, this is not low-income housing," said Gaska.

When asked about all of the controversy being generated as a result of the construction, Gaska added, "He could build a nine-story building or better, but he has decided to remain within the guidelines of the existing neighborhood heights. Quite frankly, the guy has every right to build on the property without any opposition." According to Gaska, and several Community Board 14 documents that were obtained by The Wave, Miller is acting in accordance with any and all of the zoning and construction guidelines and does not have to obtain the approval of the Community Board or any of the local organizations.

The Beach 94 Street area is classified as an "R6" zoning district. This means that the district is appropriate for medium density housing. Typical R6 development, usually between three and twelve stories, is common in built- up areas of all boroughs except Staten Island. Moreover, this particular zoning ordinance states that parking must be provided for 70 percent of the dwelling units.

The Rockaway Beach Civic Association has also given the seal of approval to Miller’s venture. Bobbi Hart, President of the organization, states, "Jonathan Miller, builder of Rockaway Estates, has developed many beautiful homes on the Playland site and along Shorefront Parkway. There are no subsidies from the city, state or federal government involved, and this will be a private development. He has often met with us, and to date everything he has promised has been done."

Another important guideline that provides Miller with the opportunity to build on the land is the "as-of-right" clause. This says that most development or use of unimproved land only needs to meet the provisions of the Zoning Resolution to be granted a building permit as a matter of right. In other words, a developer may build a structure as-of-right- if the Department of Buildings is satisfied that the structure complies with the Zoning Resolution and Building Code. The City Planning Commission requires no action under such circumstances.

Although Miller has legitimately been given the green light to build, many residents are still upset over the construction. Margaret O’Neill echoed the sentiments of many residents when she stated, "They are extending their property onto public property with this construction. It’s just not right. This developer has been allowed to come in and do what he pleases, without any regard for the people who have lived here for years."

Joelle Ballonzoli, a resident near the construction site, is extremely outraged over the development. "Who does this guy think he is? God? Why has he been given the go ahead to do this without meeting with members of the community? The Community Board and the Rockaway Beach Civic Association gave approval to Miller, but they were certainly not speaking for the entire community."

The parking issue is of major concern to residents as well. Fred Rose, who has lived at the area in question for over 40 years states, " It’s hard enough to find a parking spot already. This construction will only make things worse. If anything, it will lessen the number of available spaces. No one has approached us to explain how this situation will be handled. It’s very frustrating."

The Wave contacted the developer, but he did not want to comment at this time because he is looking into the complaints and concerns that are being expressed by the community.

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