CB11 denies Auburndale owner’s zoning request

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Kelsey Durham

Community Board 11 voted down an application at its monthly meeting Monday that would have allowed the owner of an Auburndale building to complete renovations under previous zoning laws that were changed six years ago, citing safety concerns that would arise if the project were to move forward.

Michael Cheng, current owner of a four-lot-wide residential property, at 47-04 198th St., submitted an application to the city Board of Standards and Appeals Jan. 22, He asked the board to allow him to continue construction on the proposed two-family housing property under zoning laws dating back to 2005, when the initial project applications were filed and work first began.

The previous owner who started construction nine years ago filed for bankruptcy before the project was completed, according to the application, and Cheng purchased the vacant building through foreclosure in 2013. He is now fighting to be able to complete work on the property as originally planned instead of having to tear the building down and start from scratch in order to follow today’s zoning regulations.

“Applications like this are typically approved even when just the foundation is complete,” said Elizabeth Bennett, the attorney who represented Cheng at Monday’s meeting. “Here we have a lot more than that and we feel it’s a good application.”

The application went before CB 11’s Zoning Committee last month, when members voted 6-3 in favor of denying Cheng’s request. At the public hearing during the community board meeting, committee Chairwoman Christine Haider said she had a lot of concerns with the current state of the building and how safe it would be even if construction is resumed.

“The sidewalk is missing about 10 feet where the curb cutter will go and there’s a broken sidewalk at the existing curb cut,” Haider said. “It’s boarded up, there’s junk inside and it’s quite a hazard, I think.”

Another concern mentioned by some residents in nearby homes was the lack of adequate space for fire trucks to come in and out of the property’s entrance on 47th Avenue, which opponents of the structure said is too narrow to allow trucks to turn around. Neighbors also addressed the increased traffic the property would bring to the dead-end, family-occupied street as well as the extra strain it would put on sewage and drain systems because of the street’s slope.

After discussion, the community board voted against the application 34-4 and will recommend that the request be denied when it returns to the BSA. Haider said much of the reasoning behind denying the request was because of illegal work the previous owner had done, including violations of the fire code.

If Cheng’s application is also denied by the BSA, Haider said his two options are to tear down the building or leave it standing as is without completing any further work.

“The previous owner made a lot of mistakes, but all this building needs is one person to take care of it,” Cheng said. “I could be that person.”

Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at kdurham@cnglocal.com.

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