RB Downzone Debate Rages On
For the second time in almost three months, residents came together to hear a proposal to downzone Rockaway Beach. With a larger crowd than before, consultant Paul Graziano explained his proposal for rezoning the area.
"The proposed are contextual zones to better fit the current context of the building there today," said Graziano.
Graziano, a consultant hired by City Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. to evaluate the zoning in most of the district, presented his ideas for rezoning the area at a Rockaway Beach Civic Association meeting Tuesday night at the Knights of Columbus hall.
Current zoning in the area is divided into four zones: C-3, R-4, R-5 and R-6. Graziano's recommendations call for splitting Rockaway Beach into five zones: C-3A, R-3A, R-4A, R-5B and R-6B. In addition, the proposal calls for creating commercial overlays on Rockaway Beach Boulevard to legalize businesses, which are already there.
According to the Department of City Planning website, zoning in the city is broken down into 10 "basic residence districts - R1 through R10. The numbers refer to permitted bulk and density (with R1 having the lowest density and R10 the highest) and other controls such as parking.
Resident Steve O'Sullivan, who owns property on Beach 90 and 92 Streets, became emotional when he talked about his home.
"Those who want to live here want things to remain the same," said O'Sullivan. "The only reason zoning is important [to these developers] is they want to buy and raise new buildings. I've seen buildings built from lot line to lot line.
"The last thing I want is another wall in front of me. Although the proposal would impact me financially, I'm against leaving it as is. What's going up doesn't fit with the neighborhood I grew up in and love."
"We have the most beautiful beachfront and it is being ruined," said Rosenberg.
Kathleen Norton said, "I need someplace to live in retirement.... Everything is about money, money. Isn't there some kind of spiritual value? Don't we want our kids to live in a nice community?"
As expected, not everyone was happy with the proposals to downzone Rockaway Beach. Most of those who spoke against it were developers and real estate brokers.
D. Brian Heffernan, a resident and real estate broker suggests there is a continued potential for development in Rockaway Beach. He also said, "First comes development, then comes infrastructure. R5 and R6 is most desirable to developers...with a high demand for R5 and R6."
Terline went on to say downzoning the property he owns is illegal.
"I didn't buy it for that," he said. "You can't illegally confiscate people's property."
Another developer termed the attempt to downzone Rockaway Beach unfair and illegal and said "the process cannot start without every homeowner being [notified]."
In response to a motion put forward by resident and developer Michael Kerris, members of the civic association voted to have copies of the proposal sent to all members for review.
In spite of the attempt to slow down the proposal, it will go forward to the Department of City Planning for certification.
Delores Orr, the president of the Rockaway Beach Civic Association gave members several opportunities to call for a new vote to accept or turn down the proposal.
"We will go forward with the proposal," said Delores Orr, the president of the civic association. "No one made a motion to rescind the vote despite my asking three times."
The civic association in 1992, as part of the Sunny-Rock Plan to rezone Rockaway Beach, first approved the proposal. The City Planning Commission eventually denied it during the review process.
Graziano explained that for any rezoning to become law a period of public review is required.
Once the Department of City Planning certifies the proposal's application, a seven-month public review process begins.
Community Board 14 will have 60 days to hold public hearings in front of its Land Use Committee and then the entire board. Then the Borough President's office has 30 days for a public hearing and to make a decision. The application then moves on to the City Planning Commission who, within 60 days, must a hold hearing and send their recommendation to the City Council. Finally, the council's Zoning and Franchise committee will hold a public hearing, the Land Use committee will vote and the entire council will make the final decision.
"The second it is approved by the City Council it becomes law," said Graziano.