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‘No Variance’ say Bayside Hills Residents

Paul Bonfilio, an architect, faced fierce opposition at a hearing with the city Board of Standards and Appeals Tuesday, June 14 for a variance that would allow him to build a house on a property in Bayside Hills.

Thirty residents rallied before the hearing in front of the adjoining property on 50-20 216th Street to speak against Bonfilio’s aspirations with the support of State Senator Tony Avella, Bayside Hills Civic Association, Community Board 11, Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and Assemblymember David Weprin.

“If [Bonfilio] gets away with this there will be other plots and this might start a horrible revolution of other houses ruining the balance and beauty of the neighborhood,” said Sebastian D’Agostino, treasurer of Bayside Hills Civic Association. “There’s not enough room to place another house.”

The current property, owned by Denis Forde of Rock Chapel Realty, LLC is divided into two tax plots, one with a house rented to a family and the other smaller one, a garden next the house. Forde’s desire to situate a house on the smaller plot violates R2A zoning requirements including a minimum floor area of 3,800 square feet.

Seeking a variance for a side yard and corner lot requirement, Bonfilio said that a waiver would not be required if the plot were a rectangular shape or on a midblock citing the lot’s “intrinsic shape.”

Bonfilio also said that “every attempt has been made to make this building completely in character with the neighborhood.”

However, the proposed house does not fulfill five requirements of a variance including the character of the neighborhood and hardship created by the zoning requirements.

“Self created hardship of dividing a zoning lot into two tax lots does not qualify for the variance,” said Michael Feiner, president of the civic association. “This would just set a precedent for developers to seek variances and build houses, destroying a beautiful community.”

Feiner also said that there is a general feeling that the board might approve the variance due to Bonfilio’s previous membership with the board. Councilmember Dan Halloran, who also spoke at the hearing, agreed that a variance should not be approved.

“It would tell every one of us who is elected and who is a civic representative that our opinions don’t matter, that the zoning regulations don’t matter and that at the end of the day someone can come here can make representations to you [board] about a personal property that supposedly is for the owner’s daughter to occupy,” said Halloran. “Yet [there is] an incredible amount of effort in constructing models, bringing billboards in – it is not about something personal.”

Anthony Lemma, community liaison for Assemblymember David Weprin said after the hearing that the “fact that all of us came together to speak against the building of this house puts a lot of pressure on the board to respond in our favor.”

The hearing will continue on July 26 after Bonfilio provides the requested documents to the Board of Standards and Appeals by July 12.

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