Bayside Hills home granted variance, community outaged

Despite months of rallying by local residents, politicians and Community Board 11 against a land variance request in Bayside Hills, the Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) unanimously voted recently in favor of what many believe to be a precedent setting matter.

Michael Feiner, Bayside Hills Civic Association president, has been uniting the opposition against land owner Rockchapel Realty, LLC who has planned on developing the lot next to 50-20 216th Street into a two-bedroom rental home since January. According to the BSA decision, disapproval was recommended by Community Board 11, Borough President Helen Marshall, Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Councilmember Dan Halloran, State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblymember David Weprin.

“In my 25 years of being involved with our Civic Association, no issue has ever come my way that looked this cut and dry; a house just doesn’t belong at that location for zillions of reasons,” said Feiner.

Those cited reasons for opposition included the site being too small to accommodate a second home and being out of context with the surrounding neighborhood. The original lot –which already has a two-story home – was divided into two lots with a vacant triangular corner to be used for the new project. A variance had to be filed since the existing R2A zoning in the area prohibits the construction of a second house due to the small size of the plot on which the house is to be built. Currently, the plot is a garden.

According to Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Community Board 11, Rockchapel Realty took advantage of a technical zoning resolution, which “probably should be changed.”

“In certain residential communities, properties should not be allowed to be divided into tax lots which are smaller,” said Seinfeld.

With the BSA decision resulting in a 5-0 vote, there are limited options for the mass opposition.

“As for an appeal, it would be very difficult but I plan to find out how it could be done,” said Feiner. “I understand in rare cases there were successful appeals, but the cards are really stacked against us in this instance.”

Neighbors on the block had different views on the proposed development, which does not yet have a start date.

“My opinion will depend on what the house will look like once it’s built,” said Wyakeena Tse.

Raymond Porfilio had a different take:

“It’s a disgrace. The BSA basically disregarded the community’s desires and the zoning laws. This is an area where the zoning laws prohibit that kind of structure. BSA granted a waiver to a developer who has no interest in the community and doesn’t have a large enough property to put a house in there. We’re not going to give up fighting.”

Attempts to reach Rockchapel Realty, LLC or the developer’s architect Paul Bonfilio were unsuccessful.

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