CB 5 considers rezoning

By Sarina Trangle

Plans to rezone a roughly two-block manufacturing section of Ridgewood for residential and commercial use roused many to testify at the Community Board 5 meeting last week.

Speakers were divided over whether proposed apartments would lure in wealthier residents and price out traditional Ridgewood inhabitants or improve an area where some lots are largely used for storage.

The two-block-long-by-one-block wide stretch in question is bounded by Flushing, Woodward and Onderdonk avenues and Starr Street and currently includes mostly two- to three-story residences, a delicatessen, a restaurant, a contractor’s yard with a small office, a warehouse, a storage space and a truck lot, according to paperwork filed with the city Department of Planning.

Steven Sinacori, a lawyer representing the property owner pushing for the rezoning, explained at the March 12 meeting that if approved his client sought to build a 90,020-square-foot building on Woodward Avenue between Starr and Troutman streets with 88 apartments, ground floor medical and retail space, a multi-use community room and 118 below-ground parking spaces.

The owner also intends to construct a four-story, eight-unit residence on the corner of Starr and Troutman streets. Both areas are currently used to store trucks and construction material, according to Sinacori.

“He’s been approached by many people asking him to do something with the site to have it cleaned up,” Sinacori said of his client. “It’s really a cleanup of the area and creating something that will beautify the area.”

Tom Loftus, an associate with Aufgang Architects, showed renderings of the firm’s design and emphasized its intention to incorporate green elements, including high-efficiency lighting and appliances and create a garden and dog walk on the roof.

All the buildings’ amenities sounded like an invitation for gentrification to Manny Jalonschi.

“What are we going to get that comes with this to make sure our neighborhood can handle this, and that it’s not a complete rift from the incomes that are in the neighborhood, so that when this wonderful-looking project shows up, all the folks that can’t afford wonderful-looking projects … don’t get kicked out or harassed?” Jalonschi said.

Sinacori said he anticipates studios renting for $1,000 to $1,200 and two-bedrooms costing up to $1,800 a month. He did not mention binding rent proposals, as Jalonschi urged.

But the estimates sounded reasonable to some.

Craig Montalbano, a lifelong resident of the Ridgewood and Bushwick area, said three-bedrooms renting for $2,000 were scarce in the community.

He said landlords have spent decades trying unsuccessfully to attract manufacturers to the area.

“The quality of life is substandard on our block and it’s been substandard for years,” he said. “Two points we should reiterate here over and over — jobs and housing. The community needs housing and we need jobs.”

Though not technically in the Maspeth Industrial Business Zone, the area considered for rezoning borders the Maspeth IBZ, which the city established to protect manufacturing businesses by pledging not to rezone the area and using tax incentives to encourage new companies to relocate there.

The stretch proposed for rezoning was included in the Maspeth IBZ map and later removed because it is surrounded mostly by residential facilities.

The IBZ is also contending with the Knockdown Center’s bid to operate an arts facility within its bounds, at 52-19 Flushing Ave.

Adam Friedman, executive director of the community planning and research organization Pratt Center for Community Development, said promoting non-industrial uses near and in IBZs often drives up property values as developers eye potential residential projects.

CB 5 opted to bring the matter back to the Land Use Committee, which intends to make a recommendation on the rezoning before the April board meeting.

Reach reporter Sarina Trangle at 718-260-4546 or by e-mail at [email protected].