By Joe Anuta
Community Board 7 is set to hear a proposal to construct a gleaming 18-story tower in downtown Flushing that needs special permission from the city to pierce LaGuardia Airport’s flight path zone.
The tower, called Eastern Mirage, has been planned for 42-31 Union St. for years, and once had the backing of the city Economic Development Corp. It has been partially financed by New York City municipal bonds, according to an application submitted to CB 7 on behalf of the property owner, Richard Xia.
Xia’s development company, X & Y Development, is applying for something called a variance and a special permit from the city to build the structure, and the proposal is set to be heard at a board meeting next week.
“All told, the requested variance is meritorious,” Mitchell Ross, Xia’s lawyer, said in the application. “It is reasonable, modest and necessary.”
The proposed building is divided into two parts. Near the back of the property, away from Union Street, an 18-story tower will house 222 hotel units, according to the application, though members of CB 7 said the number is now less.
The structure also features a large, nine-story base that will house a medical facility called the North Queens Medical Center, which will be in the front right off Union Street.
The medical center was included in the original plan from several years ago at the behest of EDC, according to the proposal.
The cellar of the building will have room for 239 parking spots, though that number may not be set in stone, according to the board.
But the developers are claiming that in order to get a reasonable return on their financial investment, they need to circumvent two New York City zoning laws, one which has to do with buildings rising into territory controlled by the Federal Aviation Administration and the other with the site’s proposed use as a hotel.
In the application, Ross said the footprint of the lot is abnormally narrow. A building’s maximum size is regulated by many factors, one of which is called floor area ratio. This number dictates in total how many square feet a building can be.
Because of the narrowness of the lot, Ross contends, the building will not use up all of its allowed floor space unless it builds into an area regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. That area is subject to the FAA’s oversight due to its proximity to the flight path of planes using LaGuardia Airport, although in this case the height complies with the city’s zoning laws.
The developer also claims that offering standard residential apartments in the tower would not give them enough economic return, due to the constant airplane noise from LaGuardia Airport takeoffs and departures. Instead, Xia is petitioning the city to allow him to build a hotel, even though it is not allowed by zoning regulations.
Their argument is that residents would not pay money to live in high-end apartments that were constantly bombarded with airplane noise, but hotel guests who know they are staying near an airport would not be as picky.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.