By Bernard Haber
To preserve the Douglaston – Little Neck area, CB 11 initiated a 197A Plan which applied zoning changes to the commercial Northern Boulevard and the residential areas north and south of the boulevard. This type of plan is usually prepared by a consultant at a substantial cost to the city, but because of the professional capability of the board, the plan was prepared by a few board members and staff.
The city planning commission rezoned most of the residential plan proposed by the board. The commercial changes are still under discussion. In 1998 Douglas Manor’s 500 homes were designated a city landmark and the area known as Douglaston Hills was designated by the National Trust as an historical area in 2000. This was strongly supported by CB 11 protecting the area’s significant homes from being demolished and redeveloped without city approval.
Much of the time spent by the Community Board concerns Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) items. Over the years we have had many important zoning and variance issues come before the board.
Most recently, in 1998 an eight-story apartment house was planned for an empty property on Douglaston Parkway which would have been adjacent to a 31-foot one-family house. A variance by the Board of Standard and Appeals was required by the builder. Major opposition by the community, civic associations and CB 11 forced the builder to withdraw the application. With the help of our legislators the land, directly adjacent to Oak Lake (which is owned by the Parks Dept.) was bought by the city and added to the park system.
Also on Douglaston Parkway and Northern Blvd. in the mid 1990’s a developer bought an active gas station with the intent of building a nine-story apartment house on the half acre of land. CB 11 got the builder to withdraw his application and scale down the development to the CVS that is located there today.
The 21st Century
• Northern Boulevard between Francis Lewis Boulevard and Bell Boulevard immediately after World War II became one of the major automobile-related business areas in Queens County. These businesses existed before much of the residential build-up occurred in Bayside. Prior to 1950 many of the garden apartments and one and two family homes did not exist. Zoning regulations at the time of the expansion of the businesses were from 1918. It wasn’t until 1961 that the zoning laws changed. However, most of the auto related businesses were grandfathered under the 1918 regulations. Only changes to their existing use or expansion required review by the BSA.
This business strip over the years has expanded and grown with eating establishments, medical facilities, plumbing supplies, office buildings and other retail establishments in addition to the auto related business providing substantial employment to the area. Since 1969, CB 11 has been involved with many issues and variance applications on both the north and south side of Northern Blvd.
These have been reasonably divided in location and recommendations made by CB 11. Unfortunately traffic, automobile ownership and need for auto service has grown at least 10-fold since the 1950s when few families owned an automobile. Today the average family in Bayside owns two and many own three cars. The impact of air and noise pollution on these families living adjacent to the Northern Boulevard automobile strip is substantial.
CB 11 has asked the city to monitor the negative impacts on the surrounding community and develop ways to mitigate these impacts. Hopefully, with new technology and careful administration by the city, this problem can be overcome. However, any attempt to remove these businesses would be a very difficult task resulting in decades of litigation. The City of New York probably would not undertake such action.
CB 11 has been successful in changing the zoning of the area along 45th Road from commercial to residential. Should an auto-related or other objectionable business leave 45th Road, CB 11 is pledged to recommend that its replacement must adhere to the new and underlying zoning of the property. Thus many of the commercial high use groups which create objectionable impacts may eventually disappear.
• The Northern Boulevard Bridge over the Cross Island Parkway was reconstructed with work starting in late 1998 and completing in October 2000. Although detours were required, four lanes of traffic were always available and traffic generally moved through the construction without delay. The planning involved substantial input by CB 11 to ensure the maintenance of traffic during the construction. CB 11 monitored every step of the construction and advised NYCDOT during the various stages of how traffic improvements could be made which NYCDOT implemented in a cooperative effort with the community.