Sanders Announces Initiative to End ‘Over-Development’
By Miriam Rosenberg
Councilman James Sanders, Jr. recently announced a $100,000 initiative that will look at ways of ending over-development, via down zoning, in the 31st councilmanic district. The announcement took place at a press conference/community meeting at MS 198 late last month.
“Unscrupulous developers, and not all are unscrupulous, don’t care about our community,” said Sanders. “They give nothing back and have changed the face of our community.”
Sanders explained that current zoning rules, some from the 1960’s when the city was trying to get more residents, no longer apply.
Sanders hired Paul Graziano of Associated Cultural Resource Consultants to conduct a study of the neighborhoods in the 31st district. Graziano, who is also the zoning and land-use chair of the Queens Civic Congress, did a study for Councilman Tony Avella concerning current zoning and the relationship to existing housing in Avella’s district in 2003.
“We needed someone outside the system … in an effort to better, more comprehensively navigate the waters and to look at the district as a whole – the parks, schools, green space and shopping centers,” Sanders said about Graziano.
Graziano is exploring “contextual rezoning”, which is development consistent with what is on the ground. His study will focus on such things as areas for recreation, places that have historical importance to the Rockaways, the wetlands and over development in Far Rockaway.
In the last nine months, Graziano said he has noticed a high number of , at least, 20 to 30 new buildings in Far Rockaway.
“We need to create zoning enhancements for commercial development in certain areas,” explained Graziano.
At the same time, Graziano spoke about the fact there are “there are parcels for active recreation” in Rockaway. He said we should be using these parcels of land instead of destroying national land. “Also private land with wetlands should not be developed. They should be bought by the city.”
Graziano will also be looking to determine what buildings and districts can be eligible for landmark status in the area.
“The country estate for the Mott family, the building was 160 years old, was knocked down last fall,” said Graziano. “It was probably the most important house in all of the Rockaways. “Zoning let them do it. Advocates for preservation didn’t know until it was too late.
“Far Rockaway was like the Hamptons…it had beautiful parks…we’re going to go building by building…every area to see what is being attacked,” he said.
Sanders said that the $100,000 would be used for Graziano’s study and then to bring together the many different studies about the area.
“It is a quality of life issue – protecting our community or watching it change forever,” continued the councilman, who hopes to have a draft of the report and the recommendations by October. When a final report is in, Sanders said the fight would begin to get changes, such as in zoning, implemented.
“We have to defend all of these communities. Our desire to increase density…we have to shut the door before it is all gone. There has to be a balance,” Sanders told The Wave.
Additional community meetings over the next few months will give Graziano the opportunity to explain the downzoning issue to Far Rockaway residents.