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Oversized home draws ire in Bayside

By Gabriel Rom

State. Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has had enough.

Last weekend, Avella, along with civic leaders from northeast Queens gathered to raise their voices against the construction of what he called another “monstrous McMansion” in Bayside.

The towering house, located at 46-10 216 St., is listed as a three-unit, one family dwelling and is owned by Qiu Rong Zhang. Zhang acquired the property in February 2014 for $680,000, according to records from the Department of Buildings. The building has been renovated to three stories and is built to the edge of the lot line, angering residents who see it as unsightly and obtrusive.

The anticipated completion date was December 2016, but construction has stopped at Avella’s behest.

On Jan 29. Avella sent a letter to Derek Lee, the Queens commissioner of the city Department of Buildings, asking the agency to audit and inspect the property. Three weeks later, the DOB placed a stop-work order on the construction site, citing “construction contrary to approved plans.”

But Avella says the problem stems from a clear abuse of the zoning system. .

“A stop-work order is nice, but how did we get to this point?” he demanded at a rally Saturday in front of the new building..

Others at the protest expressed a similar distrust of city competency and worried that the order would be lifted soon, allowing work on the property to continue.

“It’s all becoming too obnoxious,” said Mary Parrino, a member of the Bayside Hills Civic Association. “Where is the oversight?”

Parrino turned from the under-construction property and pointed to a modest single family home across the street. It was a study in contrasts.

“That’s what this entire street used to look like,” she said.

According to urban planner Paul Graziano, who has worked on rezonings in much of northeast Queens, when Bayside was being rezoned a decade ago, small patches of land remained designated as R4, multi-family general residence zoning. Because of quirks in the city’s zoning maps, the towering property is zoned in R4 while the homes just across the street are not.

“This was one of the bones of contention that never got fixed,” Graziano said. “The Department of City Planning would not budge, which was odd since they were open to doing this kind of splitting of blocks in other areas of Bayside as well as other rezonings later on.”

Parrino said the fears of the community are many: overdevelopment, overcrowding, loss of parking space and tax evasion on the part of people illegally living in new developments.

“This could be the beginning of what everyone fears,” said Mike Caifa, a Bayside resident, .

Avella said that new regulations must be introduced to offer homeowners recourse when developers attempt to significantly change a semi-attached dwelling.

Graziano mentioned possibly putting in a rezoning amendment. Community Board 11, he said, could put in an application.

“If the community board sponsors an amendment, it becomes difficult for the city to ignore,” he said.

Avella concluded the conference with an appeal for recognition from City Hall.

“It’s about time that the city pays attention to these quiet middle-class communities that pay their taxes and want something in return,” Avella said.

“I’m sick and tired of holding these press conferences.”

Reach reporter Gabriel Rom by e-mail at [email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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