Brendan Pillar, a city planner, laid out the outlines of what changes residents could expect to see if the zoning changes are approved.
The rezoning is planned for 229 blocks, with 78 blocks in the Woodhaven section and 151 in the Richmond Hill section of the rezoning.
The entire rezoning area is bound by Park Land South to the North, Eldert Lane to the West, the Van Wyck Expressway to the East and 103 rd Avenue to the South.
“By department standards this is a very large rezoning,” Pillar said.
According to Pillar, rezoning of Queens has been a major priority for this administration under the Department of City Planing. Since 2002, the department has rezoned 6,000 blocks – almost a quarter of the borough.
This is not the first rezoning that the department did in community district 9. A 140-block rezoning was approved by the City Council in 2005 for Kew Gardens and Richmond Hill, helping to reflect established building patterns at the time while directing opportunity for new development in the area.
Pillar presented a draft recommendation of the rezoning, which has caused some concern by residents both in Richmond Hill and Woodhaven.
The rezoning plans to change the R3-1 and R5 districts, which is currently the two existing residential zones in both neighborhoods. The R3-1 district, which is composed of one and two family detached and semi-detached homes, is located north of Atlantic Avenue. The R5, which is comprised of all housing types, is located south of Atlantic Avenue.
The rezoning has two distinct commercial corridors – Jamaica and Atlantic Avenues. The department hopes that the zoning changes will transform the corridors to provide greater scale and density for buildings.
While some residents were concerned that the zoning would change their residential status, Pillar assured them of the three objectives of the rezoning. The aim is to reinforce neighborhood character and established building patterns by replacing the existing zoning with new, lower-density contextual zones.
It also aims to direct new residential and mixed-use development opportunities to major corridors and locations near mass transit sources and support economic development along the commercial corridors to prevent commercial intrusion onto residential side streets.
The rezoning of these areas has not been updated since 1961.
Essentially, the rezoning wants to transform the R3-1 district into R3A on 14 blocks, which will enable one to two-family detached only homes. It also wants to transform 44 blocks of R3-1 into R3X, which will also allow for one to two-family detached only homes.
In the R5 zones, as well as in some R3-1 zones, the department wants to transform it to an R4A zone on 125 blocks, which will also enable the same one and two-family detached only homes.
And on 25 blocks within the R5 zone alone, the department is proposing R4-1 zoning to allow for one to two-family detached as well as semi-detached homes. On another four blocks in the R5 zone, an R4B zone is proposed, which will allow for all housing types.
On 34 blocks within the current R3-1 and R5 zones, an R6A zone is also proposed, which will also allow for all housing types. The change to an R6A zone would allow for 70-foot buildings to be built instead of the current 40-foot limit.
“The single family character is predominant in this district but what has been happening in recent years is that new development has been popping up and some of it is out of character,” Pillar said.
Ed Wendell, president of the WRBA, along with Assemblyman Mike Miller and CB 9 chair Andrea Crawford are both behind maintaining the character of the neighborhood.
But Vishnu Mahadeo, a Richmond Hill activist, is concerned that keeping the current standards on certain blocks does not merge will with a growing community.
He said that the city needs to find a way to deal with the growing population in the neighborhood, and the rezoning might be a jumping point because it will not push people out of the area. Mahadeo has said that it would negatively impact the growing community if the zoning laws were not changed to accommodate more families.
The department will continue to hold public hearings on the draft recommendations until it goes through a formal review process, which Pillar says could begin in March.
The community board will have 60 days after the formal review process begins to hold a public hearing. After that, the borough president then has 30 days to vote on it. The City Planning Commission then takes a look at the proposed changes and votes on it before it reaches the City Council, which has 60 days to approve.