By Howard Koplowitz
Community Board 8 was bitterly divided over an owner’s plan to extend a commercial overlay on 164th Street and ultimately decided to vote against the plan during its monthly meeting last week.
The board voted against the proposal by a vote of 19-15.
J&H Management Construction, which operates an auto repair shop at the site at 69-15 164th St., is seeking a change in zoning on the block so a two-story building, with one floor of retail and a second floor of offices and a lobby, can be constructed on the lot.
Joel Fisher, president of the company, wanted to speak at the meeting but was denied because he had not signed up for public speaking time.
Steve Konigsberg, chairman of CB 8’s Zoning Committee, said the body voted 6-2 in favor of the change but that he voted against the proposal because of “reservations with promises and assurances” by the owner.
CB 8 member Kevin Forrestal said the applicant was asked to cooperate with elderly neighbors on the block but there had been a “lack of cooperation.”
Forrestal said the management company should seek a variance instead of changing zoning on the block.
“To give a change in zoning … is inappropriate and we should vote this down and leave the option to the applicant to go another route and ask for a variance,” Forrestal said.
CB 8 member Pat Dolan said changes like the one the applicant is seeking is happening more frequently, citing Northern Boulevard in CB 11 and College Point Boulevard in CB 7.
Dolan said she was concerned that a zoning change would put construction on the block at the mercy of the city Department of Buildings, which she contended failed to enforce laws adequately.
Dolan also said she would rather J&H Management seek a variance because it would have terms that the community board could evaluate every few years.
“This applicant has not really demonstrated … being a really good neighbor,” she said.
But CB 8 Chairman Alan Warshaviak said he was in favor of the change because he believed it would foster business development in the community.
CB 8 member Maurice Braithwaite also said he approved of the applicant’s wishes.
“Nothing jumped out at me that told me I should vote this down,” he said.
In another voting matter, CB 8 easily approved the terms of a variance for a dentist’s office at 166-18 73rd Ave. in Fresh Meadows.
Konigsberg said neighbors near the office had no problems with the building and that the office had been in the community for many years.
“There are no complaints,” he said. “There are no violations.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.