By Joe Maniscalco
New zoning rules for a roughly 120-block area of Bensonhurst are poised to become reality this week after the City Council’s Land Use Committee and Zoning & Franchises Sub-committee backed a plan developed by the City Planning Commission. The effort is intended to curtail the rise of multi-family developments that continue to supplant traditional one- and two-family homes throughout the area. “The new zoning will maintain this low-rise character on most blocks, preventing the replacement of one- and two family homes with out-of-scale multi-family buildings,” Mayor Mike Bloomberg said. But while it places a cap on some development, the plan making it way through the City Council exempts a number of blocks between Avenue O and 65th Street, originally included in the City Planning Commission’s proposal approved on May 25. The mayor said that the new zoning rules would allow for additional apartment house construction with ground floor retail on larger streets like Kings Highway, Quentin Road, Avenue P and 65th Street. “It is important to find opportunities to add housing wherever the capacity exists to support it, and building on this model of housing and retail will further strengthen this community,” Bloomberg said. Opponents of high-rise development, however, spoke out against alterations to the plan at a City Council hearing held earlier this month. “This area is not equipped to handle anything but an R4 or R5B zoning,” said Gravesend-Bensonhurst Quality of Life Committee President Lorraine Lapetina. “Allowing anything other than an R4 or R5B zoning in this community would be devastating.” Assemblymember Bill Colton, an outspoken critic of overdevelopment, said that going ahead with an altered rezoning plan could have a detrimental effect on the community. Opponents charge that new development in the area already underway has damaged existing homes. “They are destroying adjoining homes and porches, as was the case with a home at 1517 West 4th Street,” said Mary Placanica, member of the Gravesend/Bensonhurst Quality of Life Committee. “The contractors who were working at 1515 West 4th Street were reported to the Buildings Department on June 7 for causing cracks on 1517 West 4th Street’s porch. Despite that report, construction was allowed to continue and on June 11, the porch at 1517 West 4th Street collapsed, according to Placanica. The mayor said the change in Bensonhurst’s zoning map helps fulfill his promise to protect the city’s primarily low density neighborhoods by ensuring that new development does not change the character of our neighborhoods. “As a result, residents will know that my administration hears their concerns about out-of-scale development in Bensonhurst and is working hard to prevent it,” he said. Colton said that the “job was not done.” “It’s a step in the right direction,” he said. “There has to be enforcement. Developers are have converged on the neighborhood trying to get in before the new rezoning.” Colton also stressed that a wider area of Bensonhurst needed to be rezoned in order to preserve the character of the neighborhood. The City Council is expected to take another vote on the plan this week.