Rockaway Park Residents Debate Merits Of Downzoning Community
A diverse array of opinions and recommendations were voiced at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club on Tuesday, as members of the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association were given an opportunity to discuss the proposed downzoning of the community.
The gathering was the fourth local meeting on the subject since the spring. At that time, Paul Graziano, a consultant, hired by Councilman Joseph Addabbo Jr. to prepare zoning proposals for his district, made a presentation on a possible rezoning of Rockaway Park.
"This meeting is to try to make your voice heard to this change, if there is going to be a change," said Ed Re, the president of the association.
"We hope to move to an area that utilizes the spirit of what everyone wants."
As the meeting began, Re pointed out that the last major rezoning in the area was in 1961. In 1991, a landfill provision was removed for one area that was in the midst of what residents felt was overdevelopment.
Re, who teaches a course on building codes at Pratt and NYU, said he saw problems with the proposal.
Re explained that Graziano labeled blocks as having one and two-family homes when most homes on the blocks are three-family houses. He used Beach 128 Street as an example.
"[Graziano] claimed there are single and two-family homes there," Re said. "I own some houses there. There are no one or two-family homes there."
Re said the views of those in Rockaway Park are more "eclectic" then their neighbors in Neponsit - who are against rezoning - and Belle Harbor, who appear to be moving in that direction.
As the evening began, Re explained the feelings he has been able to gauge on the subject. He said it seemed that those living in the high numbers wanted to remain at their current R3 and R4 status, or to be even more restrictive. On the other side of Beach 116 Street, there appears to be a feeling to make the zoning laws less restrictive and give inducements for development.
Maureen Walsh, who lives on Beach 121 Street, believes simpler is better.
"One of the problems is there are too many split interests," said Walsh. "Make north above Rockaway Beach Boulevard R3A and south of Rockaway Beach Boulevard R4A."
While some residents liked Walsh's idea others, such as Chun Tom, had their own thoughts.
"All the homes west of Beach 116 Street should be left alone," said Tom, who owns Rockaway Perfume on Beach 115 Street and lives on Beach 128 Street. "People are spending money and making uptown better. East of 116 Street should be mainly R5."
Jim Leonard, a builder, architect and life-long resident of Rockaway, said the areas should be rezoned to R2 because the city eliminated tax abatements for one and two family homes that would come under R3A and R4A.
Jim Coyne told those in attendance that he had seen enough development.
"The place is too small and getting too crowded," said Coyne. "My answer is, if we can't downzone everything then leave it alone. I don't want to live in a community that has all of these high rises and no parking spaces."
Coyne also suggested making variances, which get around zoning regulations, harder to get.
Bernie Warnock, of Beach 124 Street, liked the idea of dividing the different sides of Rockaway Beach Boulevard into R3A and R4A zones.
"I'd like to see it a little more restrictive, but I am opposed to tall buildings with lots of people in them," Warnock told his fellow residents.
There was consensus among those at the meeting that there needed to be a change at the Beach 116 Street shopping area, with its large concentration of SRO's.
"We need to do something to bring life back to 116 Street. After 9 p.m. it's a scary experience to go there," said Leslie Mahoney, who recommended that her fellow association members drive through the area after the meeting ended.
"We need to give an incentive for development," she said.
Leonard feels the Beach 116 Street area should remain its current R5 designation, or it should be changed to R6.
Warnock said, "I'd also like to see someone like Steve Goode come in...I'd like to see things developed a little at a time. We don't need more commercial, we just need to develop what we have."
Re told the association members that the board would discuss the suggestions made during the meeting and decide if another meeting in January is required.
"At some point somebody has got to figure a sense of where we're going, or we will be ignored," Re concluded.