By Tom Momberg
The owner of Mizumi Sushi and Seafood Buffet joined his lawyer at Community Board 11’s April meeting to make the case for his application to physically expand his restaurant onto the adjacent lot.
The community board ultimately approved the application 27 to 9 despite a fair amount of opposition due to the specifics of the building site, which require extensive environmental remediation and traffic considerations.
In expanding and developing the site, tons of soil would be removed, contamination would be capped and the currently 7,000-square-foot restaurant would have a new footprint of about 15,000 square feet with a 7,200-square-foot second floor banquet room and service bar.
Property records indicate that Twin Deer Group LLC, as the property owner of Mizumi in Douglaston, recently purchased the adjacent property that was once home to a gas station and automotive service.
Ching Kuo Chiang, as the principal owner of Mizumi, is working with the city Office of Environmental Remediation to clean up the contaminated site, which had previously been walled off from contaminating the surrounding wetlands of Alley Pond Park.
Chiang’s application to CB11 was only for a zoning variance, because the contaminated parcel is currently zoned single-family residential. There are no developments to the west of the parcel on which Mizumi plans to expand, and it is surrounded by an environmentally protected area.
In the application, Chiang’s lawyer Josh Reinsmith said Mizumi, at 231-10 Northern Blvd., would be combined with the adjacent parcel to be a single commercial-zoned lot. The application is still subject to approval by the Department of Environmental Conservation. If combined, the lot would be just under 1.5 acres in size.
Reinsmith said the developers have projected a 500-person maximum seating capacity with the proposed expansion, up from the restaurant’s current 250-person capacity.
The project proposal calls for 143 total parking spaces on the site once construction is completed, which Reinsmith said could fit up to 180 cars for valet parking. He said traffic consultants believed that would be sufficient.
But at least a dozen board members expressed concerns that the parking spaces weren’t enough to meet the capacity, and may cause traffic issues on Northern Boulevard. The project proposal also plans to add an additional vehicle entrance and exit on the opposite end of the property from the traffic light.
Reinsmith said customers would be directed out of the parking lot at the traffic light for those exiting westbound on Northern Boulevard, and signs would prevent people from turning left at the new entrance and exit. Board members were concerned that drivers would still take lefts, making traffic more dangerous and more congested.
The Douglaston Zoning Committee recommended approval of the zoning variance. Committee chair Joseph Sollano said that the committee viewed the project as only benefiting the community.
Addressing some of the board members’ concerns, Sollano said, “now 143 spaces for self parking is not the most efficient, but they have taken it upon themselves to have attended parking at all times. I think the owners would love to have 500 people in their restaurant every night, but that’s not going to happen. There will be different numbers of people in different parts of the restaurant at different times.”
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb