2008-06-06 / Front Page

Review R-7 Zone For Beach 116 Street

By Howard Schwach

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall has asked the city's planning department to take a "second look" at rezoning Beach 116 Street with eightstory buildings, a minor victory for local activists fighting the development plan.

In a June 2 recommendation, Marshall said, "The rezoning proposal [that would have allowed for an R-7 Zone] for Beach 116 Street between Ocean Promenade north towards Rockaway Beach Boulevard should be reconsidered by the Department of City Planning. [The street] is definitely in need of revitalization. However, the effects of increase heights and density may negatively impact the bordering streets on either side - particularly the low-density areas to the west."

At the same time, Marshall recommended approval of the rezoning plan for the remainder of the peninsula, a plan that would change zoning regulations for approximately 280 blocks in five Rockaway communities.

Jonathan Gaska, the district manager of Community Board 14, which overwhelmingly approved the plan with reservations at a May 13 meeting, said that the borough president's recommendations were "in line with the board's recommendations."

"Her statement was a little stronger than ours," Gaska said. "She didn't say no to the R-7 Zone, but she showed her concern for overdevelopment."

Gaska said that he and the board would have preferred an R-5 Zone, which allows for five-story buildings. Apparently, the borough president agreed with the board's assessment.

"She's asking the city planners to take another look at their plan. Most people agree that something needs to be done there," Gaska said. "We have to spur economic development on the street, and we all just want to make sure that it's done right."

Dan Andrews, a long-time spokesperson for Marshall, told The Wave, "After listening to the testimony given at her public hearing, she decided that the plan was good, but that the bone of contention was Beach 116 Street. We have to protect such an important thoroughfare, and her statement speaks for itself. "Her recommendation shouldn't be taken as a 'no' to the plan, but just as an approval with a condition. This plan might cause harm to the area rather than allowing for its revitalization."

A member of the Rockaway Park Homeowners and Residents Association, which had been fighting the R-7 Zone through a series of meetings earlier in the year, said that she was "pleased with the borough president's recommendation."

"The higher density and the larger amount of people who will come to live and shop in the taller buildings, will put a great strain on the community and its infrastructure," the woman, who asked not to be identified because she is in negotiation with the city on other matters, said.

The borough president's recommendations are advisory in nature and the Department of City Planning does not have to accede to her wishes, but experts say that the agency traditionally pays attention to the office.

The next step for the plan is back to the City Planning agency for tweaking.

Then, the plan goes to the City Council for final approval.

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