2007-09-07 / Community

New Zoning Proposal Could Spell End To East End Bungalows

By Miriam Rosenberg

A rezoning draft by the Department of City Planning could well spell the end of the fabled and historic bungalows in the Far Rockaway area, according to Paul Graziano, an independent planning consultant who has worked with New York City Councilmembers James Sanders Jr. and Joseph Addabbo Jr. in drawing up proposals for their respective districts.

"This is not what I designed [for the area]. Not even close and not what the community wants," said Graziano, who drew up a draft proposal for the bungalow area at the behest of the two councilmembers.

Jonathan Gaska, the district manager for Community Board 14, said the board is also not happy with the draft plan.

"I think what is happening is [the city agency is proposing] not what we want and think is appropriate," said Gaska. "What [the city is proposing] is an R6 [zone], a high residential zone."

While zoning regulations are arcane and generally only understood by city bureaucrats, developers and architects, experts say that the new regulations will allow for larger homes and denser residential areas than at present.

For example the new regulations proposed by the city would all for building heights of 35 feet in an R-4 zone and 40 feet in a R-5 zone.

Experts say, however, that the building height of the actual development could go up to 70 feet, or seven stories depending on how much of the building plot is actually developed.

"R5D zoning is not a success," Gaska told The Wave. "The new housing that is already [in the area] has not sold well. It is damaged, etc. There are a lot of Section 8 and other [people there]. We have asked City Planning to lower the residential zoning to something more appropriate."

In the area north of Wavecrest Gardens, Graziano recommended an even less-dense zone, an R-3.

An R3X, which allows for detached housing, has a maximum building height of 35 feet.

Graziano recommended an R3 zone for Beach 24 to Beach 27 Streets up to Seagirt Boulevard.

"The goal was to keep small, low detached houses that would not cut off the view of the waterfront," said Graziano.

Graziano said City Planning's suggestions are "way out of whack with what I proposed." He believes that his proposals would keep new building in character with the neighborhood.

The other thing that seemed to work against his plans, said Graziano, is that the person who served as the DCP's planner for the Rockaway's is no longer at the agency.

"Chris DiOrio is gone and the people who took over don't know about the Rockaways," Graziano said. "They need to understand the nuances and what the community wants."

He added that the changes could mean the end of the bungalow area in Far Rockaway.

"I think this will create the end of the bungalows, except for one block which they will keep as a token. The rest will be destroyed," said Graziano, who explained what could happen if the changes go through.

"Anytime you create detached zones, you help speculators to assemble parcels by buying three, four bungalows in a row and build buildings out of scale and out of type with the remaining bungalows," said Graziano.

Gaska said the full board will vote on any proposals and there will be plenty of time to hear from residents on the issue.

"They're looking to prepare another draft," explained Gaska. "Then it will go to the Land Use committee, and the public will be invited to comment. Then it will be on the agenda at the next board meeting, and there will be public comment."

Gaska said DCP has committed to submitting a new draft within the next two to three weeks.

"People will get many more chances to comment," concluded Gaska.

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