By Sophia Chang
“The building is simply too large,” said Eliott Socci, president of the Douglaston Civic Association. The 43-unit complex of one- and two-bedroom apartments would be built by Frank Russo, owner of nearby restaurant Giardino's. Russo has hired Glen Cove-based JMB Architecture to design the building.
Socci also cited concerns over the possible traffic from the complex's three-story sublevel parking garage, with exits and entrances originally proposed to come off of Northern Boulevard.
Joe Giaimo, Russo's attorney, said Russo is open to community input, citing the change to the garage's exits, which would now be on Douglaston Parkway.
“We haven't filed any applications yet for a variance because we've been working with the community to see if we can get something worked out,” he said. “At least we can get a sense of what they will object to.” The area is currently an R1/R2 zone, meaning that new residential buildings are restricted to one or two stories.
“We've been to the Douglaston Civic Association and started out with six floors of apartments and condensed it down to five, and now they want four,” Giaimo said.
He added that the parking garage would actually improve congestion at the intersection. “We figure our biggest asset is to take cars off of Douglaston Parkway, taking them off the street and getting them into one of the levels.”
At last month's Douglaston Civic Association meeting, Socci said residents were divided over the complex's potential impact on the area.
“We had a wide range of opinions, going all the way from one extreme, where they don't see anything wrong with the building, to the other extreme that they're rather see the auto service station stay instead,” he said. “The general sentiment is against the building. He hasn't made any substantial changes, but the fact that he's still talking to us is a good sign.”
Joe Sollano, a member of the civic group's board of directors and the chairman of the zoning committee for Community Board 11, said there were concerns. But civic leaders were not trying to influence the overall look of the building but were simply being honest, he said.
“We're not trying to design the building at all. (Russo) asked what we thought of it and we didn't like it at all,” Sollano said.
He added that he did not see a happy resolution to the debate. “The building's too big. There is no compromise in sight at this point.”
Giaimo offered a rosier picture. “We finally have been getting along with the DCA,” he said. “It's going to be a beautiful apartment building, replacing the corner that doesn't have anything there. It'll be good for the community and for my client.”
“And of course that unsightly auto service station would be gone,” Giaimo added.
A tentative public meeting to discuss the complex is set for 8 p.m. on June 29 at St. Anastasia's Church at Northern Boulevard and Alameda Boulevard.
Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.