By Steve Mosco
New zoning rules are on the way for Woodhaven and Richmond Hill after the City Council approved the changes last month.
The rezoning, proposed by the Department of City Planning more than two years ago, covers 229 blocks in Woodhaven north of Jamaica and Atlantic avenues around Woodhaven Boulevard. In Richmond Hill, it includes properties between 103rd and Atlantic avenues from 102nd Street to the Van Wyck Expressway.
“This assures people that the character of our neighborhood is going to continue,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association. “It also encourages people to come in and invest in the neighborhood because they know what it’s going to look like many years down the road.”
The first rezoning in the area since 1961, the new zoning assuages the fears of residents and local civic groups, which believed the previous zoning did not protect the family-oriented character of the neighborhood.
“Businesses come in and they want to expand either up or out,” Wendell said. “This is going to prevent developers from making Woodhaven into a new downtown Flushing.”
The City Council gave final approval for the rezoning in a vote July 25, the final step in the rezoning process. City Planning’s proposal does allow for some new development, however. The rezoning permits development on one block between 135th Avenue and the Van Wyck Expressway, north of Liberty Avenue. Also, a commercial strip along Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven was upzoned to allow apartments to be built over commercial sites to add housing in the community.
“The neighborhoods have seen their populations grow in recent years, but due to antiquated zoning they are experiencing growth in the wrong places,” said Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden in a statement at the beginning of public review process in February.
Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said the neighborhood is now safe from unwanted developments.
“Residents of Woodhaven and Richmond Hill will finally see an end to development that destroyed the neighborhoods’ characteristic one- and two-family homes,” said Crowley. “The new zone also encourages economic growth along Jamaica and Atlantic avenues.”
But not everyone is on board with the rezoning. Vishnu Mahadeo, president and executive director of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council, said he and other Richmond Hill residents and business owners lobbied against some of the rezoning because religious institutions will be negatively affected.
“Construction was suspended on a Hindu temple because of insufficient parking under the new zoning laws,” said Mahadeo. “The new zoning will be a hardship on our community.”
But Wendell believes the true impact of the new zoning laws is something that will not be realized for many years.
“Residents living here 30 years from now will appreciate what was accomplished here,” he said. “People who want to develop will go where they are allowed to do it. Now this area is protected because people fought and pushed to make it happen.”
Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.