Controversial 82nd Street rezoning halted after local lawmakers voice opposition to developers

Rendering courtesy of Inline Realty Inc.

The developers of the controversial 82nd Street rezoning made the decision to shelve the proposal following consultations with local elected officials.

Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group, who proposed the rezoning of 40-31 82nd St., the site of the former Jackson Heights Cinema, said that they would no longer go through with the proposal.

“After conversations with Council member [Francisco] Moya and Assembly member [Ari] Espinal, and taking the borough president’s recommendations into consideration, we have decided to no longer pursue this rezoning application. We are continuing with construction as permitted under the current zoning,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a spokesman for the developers of the project, known as the Shoppes at 82nd Street.

Back in March, QNS reported that the developers proposed the rezoning of the property to Community Board 4.

In the proposal, the developers wanted to rezone the R6 zone into an R7X zone, both of which have a commercial overlay, but with the latter allowing the building to be built higher. They also requested that the site be designated as a Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) area, which requires a portion of new housing to be permanently affordable.

If the proposal was approved, The Shoppes at 82nd Street would consist of a 13-story, 120-unit building, 30 percent of which would be affordable housing. The ground floor of the building would house a Target and other commercial space.

Councilman Francisco Moya, who along with Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was for the proposed rezoning, withdrew his support, according to a statement from Assemblywoman Ari Espinal on July 14. In it, Espinal thanked Moya for his change of heart.

“I want to thank Council member Moya for hearing our community concerns and withdrawing his support for a project that was flawed from its inception under the previous Council member. This was never the right proposal for our neighborhood, and we need to keep the pressure on to stop the retail development that will increase traffic and congestion in our community,” said the assemblywoman.

Moya told Politico that his reasons for withdrawing support came from the desire to give his constituents as much affordable housing as possible. He proposed that the developers submit an application to the city that would codify 42 below-market units in the building, but they declined.

“This is a project that I inherited from my predecessor in the Council. It was a terrible project to begin with. I tried to manage it the best that we could, given the circumstances,” said Moya, who referenced former Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras.

Before Moya rescinded support, Espinal sent a letter to the councilman in May asking him to change his mind about the 82nd Street rezoning. Other critics of the rezoning, including Assembly Candidate Catalina Cruz, also called on the assemblyman to block the development from happening.

Last week, Cruz cited the dangers of the rezoning for the neighborhood, following the City Planning Commission vote to move forward with the project.

“The safety of our community is paramount,” Cruz said in a statement. “I am immensely disappointed in the City Planning Commission’s vote to allow this proposal to move forward despite the groundswell of opposition by the community board, local residents, small business owners and medical professionals. The EMT union, which represents the ambulance drivers working at Elmhurst Hospital, has publicly stated that this development will be an obstruction to their ability to save lives.”

Though Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group will no longer be building the residential tower, they said that they will move forward with the commercial component and Target development “as of right.” Assemblywoman Espinal called on the developers to rethink their decision altogether.

“The fact that something is ‘as-of-right’ doesn’t make it morally right,” Espinal said. “A giant Target and a parking garage in the middle of our neighborhood will mean too much traffic, more dangerous streets, and real health care crises if ambulances are delayed from reaching Elmhurst Hospital due to congested streets. I urge Target to rethink this proposal, cancel their current plans, and work with the community to determine the best path forward.”

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