April 3, 2019 By Christian Murray
A 12-story, 201-unit building is likely to go up on the corner of Northern Boulevard and 34th Avenue as plans to rezone the site are close to being approved.
The building would go up on a 30,000 square foot site that is currently home to Popeye’s, a Sushi restaurant, a tire shop, a Kumon learning center and a house of worship.
The developers, AYC Properties LLC, are seeking to change the current C8-1 zoning on the 47-15 34th Ave. site to R7X/C2-4 in order to move forward with the project.
The C8-1 zone does not permit residential buildings and is geared more toward auto-oriented uses and big box stores. Buildings within that zone are also limited in scale. The buildings that currently occupy the site—which are one and two stories tall– maximize what is currently allowed by existing zoning.
The developers are therefore seeking a zoning change that will permit residential use as well as a building six times the size of the 30,000 square foot site area-under R7-X, with a C2-4 commercial overlay.
The proposal calls for 201 units, of which 61 would be permanently affordable under Mandatory Inclusionary Housing guidelines. The development would contain 8,800 square feet of commercial space and 4,700 square feet of community facility space. The community facility would be used by Urban Underground, which provides services for underserved adults and children, as well as a pre-school. There would be 77 parking space, most of which would be below ground.
The developers, with the support of City Planning, argue that the current C8-1 zoning is no longer the most appropriate use for the site, and that sites along Northern Boulevard would be better utilized for residential use.
“The Department of City Planning finds that support of residential development on these sites better aligns with the city and community’s vision for Northern Boulevard than the existing auto-oriented use,” said Blake Montieth, an urban planner for Dept. of City Planning, who presented the rezoning application to the City Planning Commission during a hearing on Feb. 25.
However, the project has met some community opposition, since the public review process—known as ULURP– began on Nov. 13. The initial proposal was for a 14-story building, although with the same number of units.
Community Board 1 opposed the application in its opinion on Jan. 22, rejecting it by a vote of 31 to 4 with one member abstaining.
“CB1 believes the proposed rezoning application, as submitted and certified, will produce a building that is significantly out of scale and context with the surrounding development,” the board wrote in its non-binding, advisory opinion
The board noted that the development is near many two- and three-family homes, particularly to the north of the site.
“A more appropriate transition between Northern Boulevard and the neighborhoods to the north would be developments with maximum heights between eight and 10 stories,” the board wrote.
The board was not satisfied with the affordable housing component of the plan—despite it complying with the City’s MIH Option 2, where 30 percent of the units (61 in this case) were to be set aside for applicants earning 80 percent of the average median income, or $85,360 for a family of four.
The board wanted the income limits to be lower, noting that in the five census tracts surrounding the project the median housing income is $41,115.
The developer revised the plans, dropping the height to 12 stories and made a pledge to offer two-thirds of the affordable units (40 units) at 60 percent of the AMI. The revisions, however, are not binding.
Queens Borough President Melinda Katz weighed in on the plan—as part of the public review process—on Feb. 21. She approved the plan and commended the developer for working with the community by reducing the height and changing the affordable housing component. Like CB1, her views are advisory.
The plan is currently being reviewed by the City Planning Commission and a vote is likely to take place on April 10. The plan will then go to city council for approval. If the CPC and the City Council approve the plan, the zoning change will go into effect.
The development is in Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s district and it is the protocol of the council to vote in accordance with the wishes of the member where the project is to be sited.
Van Bramer said that he plans to hold a Council hearing on the project on May 2 at the Zoning Subcommittee. The hearing would then be followed by a vote of the full council in May.
“I am thoroughly studying this proposal and taking input from local stakeholders,” Van Bramer said. “I do have some concerns about this project that are shared by Community Board 1 and others. I will continue to engage with the community before coming to any decisions.”