‘Overdevelopment’ Brings Council To Far Rockaway Neighborhood
After nearly a year and a half of trying to get help about the over-development that they say is ruining their quality of life, residents of Seagirt Avenue nearby the Atlantic Beach Bridge in Far Rockaway have found a supporter in City Councilman Tony Avella.
Avella, the chairman of the Council’s Franchise and Zoning Committee, came to the neighborhood on September 2 to talk to the community about their problems.
“This was the first thing that I saw when I drove up,” Avella told The Wave as he pointed to a new building being put up at 304 Seagirt Avenue. “I think it’s a monstrosity to be perfectly honest. This is a beautiful one-family, bungalow community, and it’s a shame that it can’t remain that way.”
The Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued several stop work orders, including one for lack of a permit for installation of pilings. The DOB lifted an April stop work order in June.
Avella said that his staff is investigating the issues that residents have brought to his attention. It is clear, said the councilman, that the government agencies are not talking to each other.
“As far as I know, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) hasn’t signed off on the project,” Avella explained to the residents. “The DOB has lifted the stop work order despite the fact that another agency still has problems with the building. To me that’s a disgrace. The city should be doing a better job.”
Avella was referring to the lack of a site connection permit from the DEP approving the development’s drainage plan. Stern told Avella, before the meeting, that he had taken care of the problem with the DEP – an assertion that Avella plans to check into.
Stern spoke to The Wave about the community’s opposition.
“For every person who opposes it, there are three in favor,” said Stern. “Some concerns raised are not valid. Each unit is provided with a two-car garage, double the mandatory requirement. The homes are 1/3 less of the allowable density.
“Every municipal permit has been applied for and approved. [The homes] are self-contained for storm drainage. It has nothing to do with the city system. There is no issue with sanitation.
Avella said there are short-term, as well as long-term issues that must be addressed.
The Friends of Mott Creek, who invited Avella to Seagirt Avenue to see the development, have asked that the area be rezoned from its current R5 status to a zone that would restrict the size of new homes.
“Change of zoning needs to go through public review and takes a minimum six months,” said Avella. “The faster we get City Planning to do something the better…. a precedent is being set as we speak.”
Avella asked that residents write the mayor and the planning commissioner in support of his initiative to stop over-development citywide.
“I’m trying to get all neighborhoods to work together,” Avella said.
The other issue is whether the current project meets all legal requirements, including whether the buildings comply with the federal wetlands guidelines.
`“If he is legal, he is legal,” said Avella. “If not, then stop [it].”
Several residents spoke with The Wave – including Tracy Conroy who is soon to become a former resident.
She and her husband were the first in the neighborhood to put their house on the market in June after living there 12 years. Conroy said that she got physically sick over the development next door and in her backyard.
“I don’t want to move, but I can’t live with this either,” said Conroy as she held back tears. “I’m not happy about it.”
Peggy Monahan has been besieged with requests for her to sell her house.
“They ring my bell and ask if my house is for sale,” said Monahan, who lives on Beach 3 Street. “They leave letters in my mailbox asking if my house is for sale. Where am I going to go? I’m 73 years-old, and I live here for 27 years.”
Kathleen Murphy has received similar letters. “We’re being harassed,” Murphy told The Wave.
“I have no place to go either. This is my home.”
The residents are also worried about safety. Something Avella elaborated on.
“There’s one road to get out…it’s a limited access area,” said Avella. “If you increase the density to such an extent and there is an emergency, everybody getting out on one road – they’re not getting out.”
Also supporting those on Seagirt Avenue are Councilman James Sanders, Jr., State Senator Malcolm Smith and Congressman Gregory Meeks.