Civics concerned about mayor’s proposal to legalize basement apartments

By Bob Harris

The May 2014 newsletter of the Bayside Hills Civic Association Inc., “The Beacon,” and the June 2014 North Flushing Civic Association Newsletter both had articles against the proposal of the mayor to legalize basement apartments to create more housing for the homeless.

Rightfully, Mayor Bill De Blasio wants to add 200,000 affordable units to the city in the next 10 years. However, changing the existing zoning in Queens’ current one-family neighborhoods would undercut all the zoning changes made in the past several years. Powered by their civic association, the R2 one family neighborhoods were re-zoned to R2A. This was designed to prevent overbuilding and to keep the quality of life the way it is. This is something the Queens Civic Congress is concerned about.

It is true that this idea was proposed half a year ago and seems to have stopped, but sometimes politicians draw back under criticism and then bring the plan back months later. Civic leaders and state Sen. Tony Avella are against any plan to legalize below-ground housing.

The R2A one-family neighborhoods of Queens have a certain ambiance and density which would be undermined if such a plan was authorized. These one-family districts would suddenly become two-family districts with greater people density, more cars, more auto pollution, more garbage and recycling cans, stress on lawns with temptation to pave over them, more stress on sewage lines and on schools and transportation.

It is interesting that one can often tell which houses are rentals because the lawns are often dirt, bushes aren’t taken care of, cars are all over and trash can be found everywhere. If more rental apartments are created, then we will probably see more of these conditions.

I remember reading that the city has thousands of apartment houses and one-family houses that were foreclosed. I hope these are being renovated for the homeless. Oh, if homeless families are given good housing and if the families get counseling, then many homeless children will have a stable place to live and study, should do better in school and then the schools and the teachers will not be blamed for deficiencies.

The October 2014 Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association Newsletter had an article that with the pro bono help of attorney Jerry Iannece, the Friends of Brinkerhoff Colonial Cemetery, is now a 501(C)(3) organization and can collect money to buy the property. Several years ago the city illegally sold this cemetery. The non-profit group wants to raise money to buy this property back and restore it as a historic site. For information contact Yolanda dela Cruz Gallagher at royal‌madz@‌aol.com.

The newsletter also warned people that tree branches and shrubs will not be picked up with your regular garbage. Call 311 if you have cut up and tied up branches. It also warns that street storage of vehicles is prohibited in excess of seven consecutive days. Call 311 to report such vehicles.

The September 2014 Newsletter of the Civic Association of Utopia Estates reported that a rally by Queens Quiet Skies was held in Cunningham Park against airport noise and air pollution. At that time airplane traffic from our nearby airports was ruining our quality of life. Many civic leaders and residents came out asking for a solution to the problems. Since then, roundtable meetings have been held for all the parties concerned. The discussion is now whether there should be one roundtable for each airport, which would split those concerned, or one roundtable for all the New York Metropolitan Airports. It seems to me that everything is interrelated.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Suddenly, the Landmarks Preservation Commission announced that they wanted to take about 100 sites they had calendared off the city’s list for landmarking. If they did this then developers could tear them down. Well, lots of people objected and the LPC then announced they would not do this. We have to remember our past in all ways.


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