2005-08-18 / Front Page

Snag ‘Develops’ In Rezoning Mott Creek

By Miriam Rosenberg

Construction workers at a site on Beach 5 Street work Tuesday to get pilings installed before changes in rezoning take place. Construction workers at a site on Beach 5 Street work Tuesday to get pilings installed before changes in rezoning take place.

The process to rezone the Mott Creek area of Far Rockaway hit a snag last week when developers, who had thus far kept quiet, testified at a public hearing held by the Department of City Planning.

The application for the rezoning previously sailed through hearings at Community Board 14 and Borough President Helen Marshall’s office. Developers with ongoing projects in the area did not appear at either meeting, but showed up at the August 10 City Planning meeting, a move that surprised some residents.

Residents of Mott Creek – including Tracy Conroy, Susan Wagner and Fran Tuccio – prepare the packet of information requested by the commission for the Department of City Planning.Residents of Mott Creek – including Tracy Conroy, Susan Wagner and Fran Tuccio – prepare the packet of information requested by the commission for the Department of City Planning. “There were three open hearings,” said Fran Tuccio, a Mott Creek resident. “Only last week they were at the City Planning hearing.”

But others, like Jonathan Gaksa, Community Board 14 District Manager, felt developers would eventually have to weigh in.

“The appearance by the developers at the last hearing was not a surprise,” Gaska said. “The developers understand they have time constraints to try to maximize their investment. I don’t think anyone is surprised they are trying to rush in … we’re not.”

Matt Probkevitz of EquiShares Real Estate, who represented the developers, said they believed the application process would take longer.

“It happens to be that before it even went to the community board, all the developers met with [Assemblywoman] Audrey Pheffer and Jonathan Gaska. They were told it could take 200 days,” Probkevitz told The Wave. “They never expected it to happen in less than 60 days. The community board had 30 days, they voted in one. The borough president had 60 days, she voted in two.

“So, [the developers] hired an attorney and lobbyist and brought them down to the City Planning meeting. Anyone that was to lose millions of dollars would do the same.”

The area, beginning at Beach 6 Street along Seagirt Boulevard, to the Nassau County line and the East Rockaway Inlet, is currently zoned R5. Under the rezoning, or down-zoning, it would divide into R3-1 and R4A zones, which would keep new homes consistent with what has already built in the neighborhood. Residents must now present to the planning commission a packet detailing everything they believe was misrepresented in the developers’ testimony.

“We have to refute all the things the builders and lawyers said at the hearing, anything we felt is untrue,” said Tuccio.

They will also detail violations issued by the Department of Buildings and the Department of Environmental Conservation.

City Councilman Tony Avella, who chairs the Franchise and Zoning Committee, has been working with the area’s residents since last September.

“The commission is going to take the opportunity to review the issues brought up... hopefully it won’t affect the timetable,” said Avella.

“I find some actions by developers disgraceful. It is awful that homeowners are trying to preserve their neighborhood in such a battle. The city should be representing them.”

Residents say they oppose only over-development, not building in general.

They approximate almost 200 new families will move into the area if zoning remains unchanged.

“The density they are proposing [within] a few blocks is criminal,” said resident Susan Wagner. “We talking about how unsafe environmentally – cars, traffic, emergency getting in and out.

“The community wants the down zoning. The community board voted for it. The developers don’t live here. If people who live here want something, the community board thinks it is good... the opposition is coming from the developers.”

Meanwhile, Borough President Marshall is working to help the residents of Mott Creek. At their last meeting, Marshall instructed Magdi Mossad (Borough Commissioner for the Department of Buildings) to audit all projects in the area. The result of the audit was to be ready by the next meeting between Marshall and residents scheduled for late this week.

Probkevitz told The Wave that one developer, Boymel Green, did meet with residents to try to iron out differences, and suggested that residents were being unreasonable.

“They offered to work with the community on the design of a building, but not the building,” he said. “You can’t reason with [the residents].

“How can you compare nasty boarded up bungalows to the buildings being put up?”

Probkevitz said he would sit down with the community anytime. “Our conference room is always open,” he said.

Tracy Conroy, who says the Boymel Green offer was to change a 60-unit building to have 30-units, is willing to meet with developers – with a proviso.

“I would meet... if they conform to neighbors one-family house wishes,” she said. “As an individual, I’d ask why they want to destroy a neighborhood.”

Community members and Councilman Avella have scheduled a press conference in the Mott Creek area for late this week. Their goal, they said, is to make the public aware of the lack of efficiency in city and state agencies and the dishonesty of developers.

Gaska still feels the rezoning will be approved by late September despite this bump in the road.

“With the new regulations, some people believe there will be nicer products,” said Gaska. “The problem was what they were building and how dense, [which was] not in character with the neighborhood.”

Avella’s zoning committee should have the application for a final vote the week after the City Planning decision.

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