By Craig Giammona
About 30 local residents representing a variety of civic organizations marched outside the Jamaica Avenue offices of HOD Construction, a company currently building two homes in Springfield Gardens that have sparked the ire of local residents.The homes, located at 137-37 Southgate St., have a tree in their shared driveway and neighbors say a former one-family home is being replaced by a pair of semi-detached three-family homes. Residents said the construction project was indicative of the overdevelopment that plagues southeast Queens.”It's ridiculous,” said H.L. Grays, a real estate broker who lives next to the home and organized Saturday's protest. “Developers don't care about this community. We've had enough with the rhetoric. It's time for action.”A representative of HOD recently insisted that the homes were for two families and that the project conformed to local zoning rules. But neighbors said that is part of the problem.Grays, who was joined outside HOD's office by Councilman James Sanders (D-Laurelton), acknowledged that in some cases the developers are building homes that conform to the existing zoning rules. For this reason, local residents want the area downzoned. But Grays said that in other cases, builders are capitalizing on the Department of Buildings's lack of enforcement to circumvent the rules. Residents said Saturday that both problems were at play on Southgate Street.”The conditions have been created for the theft and plunder of our neighborhoods,” Sanders said. “Again and again, we see stately homes replaced by 'McMansions.'”Sanders said that when a one-family home is replaced by two- and three-family homes, a number of problems are created, such as school overcrowding and an increased burden on the area's already overtaxed sewer system.Much of the ire at Saturday's protest was directed at “self-certification,” a city policy that allows builders to approve their own plans. Residents said that each home should be inspected by a DOB official.”You can't allow the wolf to be in charge of the sheep,” Sanders said.Reach reporter Craig Giammona by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.