2008-08-15 / Front Page

Rezoning… A DONE DEAL

By Nicholas Briano

Rezoning… A DONE DEAL
The first rezoning of Rockaway since 1961 was approved by the City Council's Zoning and Franchises subcommittee and yesterday by the entire City Council, officials reported.

The comprehensive rezoning plan, waiting nearly three years for approval, moved quickly through the subcommittee and the City Council with the strong support of Rockaway's two City Council members.

The subcommittee held a public hearing on Tuesday and was supposed to vote at its conclusion, but since only three of its ten members showed up the vote was postponed. This was much to the dismay of the more than 25 Rockaway residents who took the day off from work to voice their opposition to the R7-A Beach 116 Street portion of the plan.

The rezoning allows for eight story buildings consisting of apartments on top of a ground level of retail businesses. The 25 residents were concerned about adding so many new residents to an already congested street.

"This proposed plan will give the Rockaways more predictable and orderly development in the future," John Young, Queens Director of City Planning said.

The rezoning affects 280 blocks across nearly the entire peninsula. The basis of the plan is to preserve the delicate landscapes of Rockaway's one- and two- family detached homes and to aid in the commercial and residential development of Beach 116 Street, according to New York City Department of City Planning officials.

The City Council approval was the final step for the certification plan that was officially started in April, also known as a Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP).

Residents who call themselves The Coalition To Save the Rockaways were pleading with the understaffed committee to rethink their plan for the commercial block by suggesting the council move forward with the plan with the exception of Beach 116 Street and allow the community more time to negotiate alternate plans.

"We need to come up with a viable plan that will create incentives for people to come here," Hank Iori said.

Ellen O'Reilly from the Broad Channel Civic Association said in a letter that the zoning would be detrimental to the future growth of Rockaway.

"[The zoning plan] is downgrading the quality of life for the peninsula's citizens and neighbors."

Paul King, Beach 116 Street business owner, feels the zoning puts Rockaway citizens in danger by adding so much population to a dead end street.

"This would be dangerous and detrimental to the future of Rockaway," King said. "Putting hundreds more people on that block is putting people's lives at risk if there is ever an emergency."

Despite the strong opposition of the residents in attendance, the plan garnered strong support from Rockaway's two city council members, James Sanders, Jr. and Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr. before the public even had a chance to testify, allowing little possibility that the committee would vote against the plan.

"I am delighted that Rockaway is finally getting the attention it deserves," Councilman Sanders said. "This is a great move towards the new Rockaways."

Addabbo, who did not attend the hearing, addressed his support for the rezoning of Beach 116 Street in a letter to the committee.

"I believe that one classification of zoning would positively promote the desired commercial and residential development that the majority of the entire Rockaway peninsula is seeking," Addabbo said. "Ignoring or postponing the rezoning of Beach 116 Street would jeopardize the progress of the remainder of the peninsula's rezoning and would place the potential positive development of Beach 116 Street in a most uncertain time frame and outcome."

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