By Zach Patberg
“Are we going to wait for them to come into our neighborhoods and build their snout houses… or are we going to do something now,” said Queens Civic Congress Vice President Pat Dolan to a crowd Monday at the Hillcrest Jewish Center, where a sense of urgency permeated the air.So far in Fresh Meadows – the prime focus of rezoning efforts right now in central Queens – four civic organizations have started to get the ball rolling to adopt the new R2A measure, which prevents out-of-character houses by restricting height and lot coverage. West Cunningham Park and Utopia Estates have already turned in their surveys to the city's Department of Planning that update the city's maps on block layout and building style. Fresh Meadows Homeowners has voted in favor of the R2A and will hand out its surveys to volunteers at its next meeting June 27. Flushing Heights will have its first meeting on the issue June 29.Other civics such as in Bellerose, whose members also attended Monday's QCC meeting, have expressed a wish to pursue a zoning change as well.”Many have told me they're afraid it's already too late,” said Utopia Estates President Tami Hirsch, referring to residents' worries that looming houses will infiltrate their neighborhood before a size-restricting measure is put in place. “There are areas in the approval process I know we can move faster with.”That process, from surveys to law, takes nine to 12 months, Queens planner John Young said, with about four months of logistical and environmental assessment and seven months of public review, which stretches from community board hearings to a City Council vote.And as Young reminded the antsy crowd changes take time in the borough that if it were its own city, would be the fifth largest in the country population-wise.The intention of the R2A rezoning, according to planning officials, is to preserve the existing residential character while leaving elbow room for homeowners to expand.The measure, therefore, maintains the same floor area allowance as the R2 designation – now in place in Fresh Meadows – but removes first-floor and attic exemptions. Building height and lot coverage are also reduced, though not drastically. “We want to remove zoning obstacles but keep attuned to the future,” Young said.About 11 borough neighborhoods have been contextually rezoned, with another 15 underway. Of those in progress, around half are adopting the R2A, including projects in Cambria Heights and College Point, which was certified on Monday by City Planning to move onto public review.Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.