Rezoning of Jamaica medical center discussed at Queens Borough public land use hearing

Rezoning of Jamaica medical center at 164th Street
Photo courtesy of Sheldon Lobel P.C.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards listened to a proposal for the rezoning of the area around a Jamaica medical lab during Thursday’s public land use hearing.

While the property at 79-18 164th St. mainly operates as a medical lab, the New York City Department of Buildings has stated that the property’s zoning is technically incorrect for the work being done there.

The rezoning presentation was given by Richard Lobel of Sheldon Lobel P.C., on behalf of Equity Environmental Engineering, T.F. Cusanelli and Filletti Architects and the property’s owner, Dr. Mikhail Kantius, MD. Kantius acquired the property in 1990 and had been running it without any issue for over 20 years before the Department of Buildings informed him of the improper zoning.

Today, the property stands as a two-story commercial building plus a cellar, coming in at a total floor area of 4000 square feet. The cellar houses offices for the Queens Hospital Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC). The ground floor is where the ambulatory healthcare offices for the program are located. The second floor contains a medical research laboratory. Work in the lab consists of diagnostic testing of tissue samples under microscopes for the presence of cancerous cells.

While both the cellar and ground floor are classified as being under the Use Group (UG) 6B, the second floor is classified as UG 9A. The proposed rezoning would facilitate the legalization of the non-conforming UG 9A medical research lab.

The zoning area is currently located in a commercial overlay district. Lobel and Kantius hope to rezone the property from being part of a C1-3 district to a C2-3 district, which is not uncommon in New York City. If this change is approved, there would be roughly nine full lots and parts of three more lots that would be affected. Still, the bulk of the properties along Union Turnpike and 164th Street would remain the same.

Lobel stated that the C1-3 designation limits the use of the property more to commercial retail whereas C2-3 would allow for a wider range of uses. The latter would allow for the use of the laboratory in the building. Additionally, other businesses in the area not devoted to commercial retail would also benefit from such a rezoning.

“[C2] allows for a wider range of businesses so that you won’t have businesses going dark,” Lobel said. “This is not an area in which C2 is unknown. In fact, it exists roughly three blocks north of this site in an even less dense district.”

According to Lobel, the second floor lab does not allow for noxious or combustible materials. This made it easier for Kantius to get an FDNY permit approval shortly after purchasing the property. There hasn’t been any major incident where the fire department was needed since then. Additionally, the site has been licensed by the Department of Health.

“Dr. Kantius has employed over 100 medical workers in the lab since it was established,” Lobel said. “The second floor consists of medical and dental laboratories for research, testing or the custom manufacturing of artificial teeth, dentures or plates, not involving any damages, fire, offensive noises, vibration, smoke or other particular matter or effects.”