Rock Park Homeowners Meeting Leaves Attendees Still In Dark
While those who came to the Rockaway Park Homeowners/Residents meeting Tuesday night expected to be educated about the proposed zoning changes for the area and how it would affect the community, the majority of people who attended left with not much more than a promise of another meeting for them to map out a rezoning plan of their own.
"The purpose of this meeting is to get information out to all of you," said Ed Re, the president of the association, who handed out a current zoning map of the area and a copy of the section of the zoning handbook that refers to residential dwellings.
"The zoning regulations tells you how you can use your property," he continued at the Beach Club meeting.
Re, who told the residents he teaches a course on building codes at Pratt and NYU believes the data used to determine the proposed zoning changes was skewed to obtain a certain result. While he advised those at the meeting to check the maps for their current zoning he did not provide any information on the proposed changes and how it would impact such things as property values.
William Gati, the president of the Queens chapter of the American Institute of Architects, was - as the full-page ad in The Wave said - to "discuss the residential zoning changes as they pertain to each zone in our area." Instead, he mostly talked about the goals of the AIA - which he said, "advocates smart growth."
In a process called a charette, Gati explained, residents come together in a forum to decide what they want for their area. Essentially writing, or in Gati's words modifying a zoning plan.
"In my opinion and the AIA, the ULURP (Uniform Land Use Review Process) is flawed," said Gati of the steps leading up to the passage of new zoning laws. "It's rushed through the process of legislation. Nowhere do individual homeowners have a voice...in the very early stages individual persons are not considered. A small amount of people have an inordinate voice."
While Jim Leonard, a former building commissioner for Queens suggested that the technical terms and the proposed changes be explained to the crowd, his idea was cast aside by Re and Gati. This led Patricia Wood to comment, "I'm learning more from [Leonard] then the three up there [at the board table]."
Re and his guest were more concerned about telling people how they can make suggestions to a plan they know nothing about, or make a plan of their own, than give out the information about the proposed changes.
In an exercise by Gati, tables of residents got together to make suggestions about zoning.
One group leader said, "We want to protect the character of the neighborhood. We're for tightening up the zoning."
Another resident said a two-family home was torn down and replaced with nine condo units. "I thought it was a beautiful house on my corner," she said.
Another group leader said, "I think most of us want to maintain the quality of life. To let our children go out to play, have an occasional barbeque and not be looking at a house six feet away."
After the meeting, Maureen Walsh told The Wave that a presentation by Paul Graziano, who was hired by Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. to prepare rezoning proposals for the district, was made at the last meeting of the association.
"Paul Graziano's appearance was skewed one way, this [meeting] was skewed another," said Walsh, who said Graziano was kept until last on the agenda. "He was shoved to the back of the program."
Noreen DeLuca said, "People who came to hear about the proposal wanted to have Graziano moved up on the agenda," but she said they were kept waiting until late in the evening.
Walsh also pointed out the minutes of the previous meeting made no mention of Graziano's appearance and the proposal. As a result, both ladies said people are not being informed about the possible changes.
A second meeting for a forum or charette with Gati will take place in September. While some, such as Wood (of Beach 119 Street) suggested another meeting in two weeks because of the importance of the issue, Re and another board member said the quick turn around time wasn't possible.
"I want to know what's going on," said Wood.
The association has 30 days to deliver its suggestions to the community board. Currently, Neponsit seems to be against any changes, Belle Harbor is in a holding pattern waiting for more resident input and Rockaway Beach has gone ahead and submitted its plan to city planning for certification.
A Rockaway Beach resident told those at Tuesday's meeting not to back down.
"There were two meetings," she said about the Rockaway Beach plan. "It was pushed through. Stay together. What happens to us will affect you, Belle Harbor [and the rest of the West end]."