Community board OKs rezone for part of Union Turnpike

four-story rendering1
Renderings courtesy of Richard Lobel

A split community board narrowly approved a proposal last week to rezone a portion of Union Turnpike.

The controversial rezoning plan would allow developer Sam Zirkiev build a four-story residential and retail structure at 158-15 Union Turnpike. It barely cleared Community Board 8 last Wednesday, with a nail-biting 17-14 vote.

“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Zirkiev said. “In the end, I’m happy with the outcome. Hopefully, it’ll get some more business and shopping in the area and more tax revenue. I’m hoping it’ll be an asset to the community.”

The now vacant land near Parsons Boulevard was once part of St. Joseph’s Hospital, which shuttered in 2004. Zirkiev bought the plot in October 2009, according to Zirkiev’s attorney, Richard Lobel.

A rezoning would allow Zirkiev to build a 68,850-square-foot building as tall as 40 feet, the attorney said. The developer’s plans include three floors for residential units, ground floor commercial use and roughly 80 underground parking spaces.

Under current zoning rules, developers can build a 10-story community facility building, shaped like a pyramid, within 70,500 square feet of the site. However, its height would be capped at 35 feet if residential units are planned, Lobel said.

Zirkiev reiterated his lack of interest in building the pyramid-like structure that would likely house medical offices — but he said he could, if rezoning plans are rejected.

Board member Kevin Forrestal said this was a “scare tactic” used to sway the board.

“We’re making more and more problems for ourselves, and we’re not addressing the infrastructure,” Forrestal said.

Attorney Richard Lobel shows Community Board 8 two renderings of proposed buildings. (THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan)

Many board members said rezoning is a better deal.

“That lot needs development. It’s been ugly for years and years and years,” said board member Martha Taylor. “There’s no green there. It is a brown lot. I think this is the best deal we can get.”

The community board’s advisory vote now goes to Borough President Helen Marshall for approval. It then needs to be passed by City Planning and the City Council.

Marshall, who has 30 days to make her determination, held a public hearing last Thursday. According to her spokesperson, she had not made a decision as of press time.