By Mark Hallum
Windsor Oaks Tenant’s Corporation is seeking approval by the Board of Standards and Appeals to amend a variance between the co-op and the neighboring housing development so they may clear a wooded area for a new clubhouse and 98 new parking spaces, according to Steve Behar, legislative council to Councilman Barry Grodenchik (D-Oakland Gardens).
The variance to maintain the 100-foot wide section of trees goes back to 1951, when the co-op was built, and serves as a buffer between the two communities.
The land where the variance is in place is between Bell Boulevard and Springfield Boulevard and as many as 15 homes border the variance.
A Community Board 11 meeting in 2015 heard strong resident opposition to the plan to clear the woodland and the co-op’s application through CB 11 to amend the variance was shot down. In 2011, the Tenant’s Corporation had secured a loan to build the 5,000-square-foot clubhouse which was refinanced four years in a row without construction moving forward.
“In our last meeting before coming in front of the community board, it was suggested that we sit down with the residents of 77th Avenue and see where we could come together,” Windsor Oaks President Ronald Kaye said in 2015. “Sadly, they wanted no part of that. They just don’t want the project at all.”
But Behar said the co-op is not backing down from its resolve to level the trees standing between them and their future amenities.
“Over the years, they’ve cut down the trees, which they weren’t supposed to be doing under the variance, and now they’re asking the BSA to eliminate the variance,” Behar said. “This is a buffer between the cooperative and the homes. These people are up in arms because they bought their homes knowing that there was a variance, that they would be protected from this big co-op. We’ve also received a lot of complaints from people who live in the co-op, but don’t want this either.”
Kaye argued in 2015 that opposition to developing the wooded area would have taken place at any geographic location and the Windsor Oaks variance was in no way special.
“The objection here is simple: ‘not in my backyard.’ But as far as residents of Windsor Oaks are concerned, that land belongs to all shareholders,” Kaye said. “If this project was proposed for another property, we would have had an entirely different group of residents expressing ‘not in my backyard.’ It isn’t a good enough reason not to have this project go forward.”
The woodland under the variance has been thinned significantly over the past decade and does not comply with the regulation agreed upon by the co-op, Behar said.
“Sixty years later they’re coming back and saying, ‘we want to change that,” Behar explained. “And the people are up in arms because they bought their house knowing that the area behind them was forest. Now it’s going to be a driveway and a clubhouse.”
The motion to amend the variance was also defeated by the Central/South Bayside Zoning Committee prior to the CB 11 meeting in 2015.
The BSA hearing to amend the variance is scheduled for Feb. 28.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall