Middle Village fears that mayor’s zoning text amendments may change their community for the worse

Queens Middle Village houses
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There goes the neighborhood?

With the City Council approving Mayor Bill de Blasio’s two zoning text amendments this week, some Queens residents are now worried that the physical landscape of their community may grow too high.

The zoning text amendments, Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) and Zoning for Quality and Affordability (ZQA), may open the door for developers to come into the neighborhood — which is made up of mostly one- and two-family homes, and potentially build four-story buildings for senior housing or nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

But Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, who represents Middle Village and voted in favor of the mayor’s plan, assured in a Letter to the Editor of The Courier and Ridgewood Times that the plan would have little effect on her district.

“It is important to understand that this housing and rezoning plan will not affect much of my Queens district, which is comprised mainly of one- to two-family homes,” Crowley said. “But even still, over the past several months, I have relayed both my own concerns as well as the concerns raised by my district’s Community Boards — 2, 5 and 9. After taking serious time to consider these issues, my Council colleagues and I were able to secure amendments to the original proposals that address the valid concerns that the Community Boards raised.”

Crowley said that the Council amended the original plan to include increased height variances for affordable senior housing and nursing homes. She added that there would be no height increase within R3-2 zones, while R4 zones, which make up most of Middle Village, can see a height increase of five feet — from 35 to 40 feet — or the equivalent of one story, and R5 zones can get a height increase from 40 to 55 feet only if certain conditions are met.

For the R5 zones, “a height increase to 55 feet cannot be on a block that is made up of more than 50 percent one- and two-family homes and the lot size cannot be smaller than 1.5 acres,” Crowley said.

“These conditions were put in place to prevent development that would negatively impact the character of a block, such as building a 55 foot building at the end of a block lined with row houses,” she added.

Robert Holden, president of the Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA), has his doubts.

“When she says [it will not affect] most of [her district], she is selling out part of it,” Holden said. “Most of Middle Village is contextual zones, giving the builders an incentive to build here. [The plan] still includes senior housing, which was our original concern. An increase of five feet would mean a four-story senior housing building could go next to a two-story home.”

In 2009, the city passed a large rezoning plan encompassing much of Middle Village, Maspeth and Glendale. The plan “downzoned” areas of the neighborhood with the intent of preserving the areas’ one- and two-family home character. Crowley, upon being sworn into the City Council that year, worked with the JPCA and the Department of City Planning to move the plan forward toward approval.