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CB 11 votes ‘no’ on Bayside office bldg

Attorney Simon Rothkrug (l.) presents a proposal at the Community Board 11 meeting requesting a variance to allow his client, Richard Alexander, to build an office building on a vacant lot in Bayside, while the board's chairman, Jerry Iannece, looks on. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

Community Board 11 voted unanimously to oppose a proposal to clear the way for an empty Bayside lot to be developed after a series of area homeowners testified against the plan at a Monday night meeting.

For Our Children Inc., a holding of Richard Alexander, owner of Lund Fire Products — bordered by 215th Place, 216th Street, 40th Avenue and the Long Island Rail Road — has been trying to develop a vacant lot next to his business for years.

Alexander’s attorney, Simon Rothkrug, presented a proposal to build a 6,790-square-foot, one-story office building on the residential-zoned parcel. In order to move forward with a commercial development on the spot, a variance to allow commercial use would have to be approved.

But CB 11 members and neighbors balked at the idea, saying Lund already contributes to traffic and parking woes in the area and that an office building would be out of character with the existing neighborhood.

“It’s a small block, it’s not meant to have any more traffic,” said Judy O’Connor, a longtime resident of 216th Street. “I can’t imagine anything down there being built as far as commercial property. There’s no parking already.”

The proposed building, which had no committed tenants, would have provided 12 parking spaces, which residents called insufficient.

In 2008, CB 11 denied Alexander an application for a variance that would have allowed for a wider range of commercial uses on the site. The application then went on to the city Board of Standards and Appeals, and Alexander eventually withdrew the application.

Alexander was on vacation and unavailable to comment Tuesday.

Rothkrug returned to CB 11 Monday night to present the scaled-back proposal. He said the site could be developed as detached residential but that due to a 2005 downzoning of the area, only four small homes would fit on the property, which would not yield sufficient economic benefit for Alexander.

“Four tiny houses, it’s not economically feasible, it’s not practical,” Rothkrug said. “We downscaled it to what we thought would be appropriate for the area and to bring a reasonable rate of return for the owner.”

In the end, that argument did not hold water with the board, which voted in lockstep to deny the application.

“The argument that they need a rate of return is simply stating that they made a bad investment and now they want the community board to fix it,” board member Steve Behar said. “The last thing the area needs is more office space …. There’s already too many trucks in this area, and there’s already no parking.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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