MidVill downzone in limbo

By Nathan Duke

Juniper Park Civic Association members said they were outraged last week that the Department of City Planning had still not certified phase two of a plan to downzone sections of Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale more than two years after residents completed an extensive survey of the neighborhoods.

The civic and residents from the three communities completed the survey in December 2005 to determine where zoning changes were necessary for phase two of a massive rezoning project. The City Council approved the first phase of the project in March 2006 and it was enacted soon afterward.

But civic leaders said they were angry that the second phase had been stalled for two years, accusing Mayor Michael Bloomberg of focusing on projects which upzone neighborhoods rather than downzone.

“The mayor can fit a lot more houses in this neighborhood, so why should he downzone?” said civic President Robert Holden, referring to the mayor's plan to create thousands of new apartment units in the city during the next two decades. “He's thumbing his nose at Queens. The mayor does not like to downzone. We'll do whatever it takes to protect our neighborhoods. If we have to, we'll block the streets.”

Joy Chen, of the borough DCP, said phase two could be enacted following an environmental project assessment, which could take a year, and a neighborhood walk-through by City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden.

“I hope we can certify by the end of the year,” Chen said. “We want to preserve the character of this community.”

But Queens City Planner John Young had originally told Community Board 5 that phase two plans would probably be certified by the end of summer 2007 and adopted by the end of that year.

The plans include a total of 250 blocks to be rezoned in four areas.

The first area's borders are Cooper Avenue, Woodhaven Boulevard, Forest Park and 80th Street in Glendale. The second has borders at Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Furmanville Avenue, the Queens-Midtown Expressway and Woodhaven Boulevard in Middle Village. The third is bordered by 59th Street, Mt. Olivet Cemetery, the Queens-Midtown Expressway and Admiral Avenue in Maspeth. The fourth is bordered by 70th Avenue, 69th Place, Felix Avenue and Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Glendale.

In many of the neighborhoods, zoning was changed to lower the height of buildings in areas with smaller one- and two-family detached buildings and row houses.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.