By Gary Buiso
Canarsie will be first, but more neighborhoods could follow in what could amount to city’s single largest rezoning initiative, officials announced last week. Ultimately, the Department of City Planning could examine all the neighborhoods encompassed by Community Board 18, including Bergen Beach, Mill Basin, Flatlands, Marine Park, Georgetown, Mill Island and Canarsie. City Planning spokesperson Rachaele Raynoff said the department has agreed to undertake a zoning study of the Canarsie area, and would implement the zoning recommendations from the study. The study will include the residentially-zoned areas between Paerdegat Basin and Fresh Creek, south of the community board boundary and the Belt Parkway, she said. “Following completion of this work, City Planning will determine whether other parts of the community district would be appropriate for analysis and zoning changes,” Raynoff said. She added that the department “is happy to meet with groups regarding concerns about this district.” Any zoning changes will require a full uniform land use review procedure, an extensive public review process. City Councilmember Lew Fidler has pushed for zoning protections for residential blocks in the district for the past four years. The hope, he said, is that any zoning changes that are adopted would preserve the scale of the neighborhoods under examination, and prevent the construction of monstrous condominiums that dwarf neighboring homes. Fidler said City Planning officials would meet with local civic associations and local residents to discus their view of housing in a particular area. “With the experts at City Planning,” Fidler said, “we will determine which neighborhoods are most at risk for development contrary to our view.” “That doesn’t mean that each and every block of Community Board 18 will be downzoned, but each will be looked at,” Fidler said. Changing the zoning forces developers to receive special approval—after a public review of a particular project—instead of proceeding without any community notification. “Too bad for developers,” Fidler said. “I represent the people who live here.” Fidler said City Planning couldn’t be embarking on the study sooner. With a recent City Council vote to update a tax incentive program for developers, Fidler said neighborhoods like those within Community Board 18 may need additional zoning protection. The bill expands the areas where developers must commit to building at least 20 percent “affordable” housing to qualify for the tax breaks. But neighborhoods such as Bedford-Stuyvesant, Canarsie, Sheepshead Bay, Bensonhurst, Coney Island and Bay Ridge are not part of the so-called ‘exclusionary zone,’ meaning that developers can get tax incentives without setting aside some of their properties for families meeting particular income requirements. “I am pro-development, but development has to be appropriate to the project and the community,” Fidler said. CB 18 District Manager Dorothy Turano cheered the zoning study. “This has been one of priorities of the community board for years,” she said. She said out-of-scale development has grown “very offensive.” “We are trying to stop the overcrowding and the overbuilding,” Turano said. She said that while some areas might seek to downzone, others might want to preserve their current zoning—or upzone to allow denser buildings. “You have to look at all the properties,” she stressed.