Queens councilwoman voices support for Little Neck restaurant’s expansion proposal

Little Neck Mizumi
Mizumi sushi restaurant and buffet bought and plans to transform the abandoned gas station on Northern Boulevard into an extension of the eatery. (QNS/File photo by Liam La Guerre)

The proposed rezoning of the sushi restaurant Mizumi on Northern Boulevard in Little Neck has drawn mixed reactions from community leaders. While Community Board 11 members previously expressed concerns over the proposal, Councilwoman Vickie Paladino recently voiced her support for the project.

Mizumi had purchased the abandoned gas station next to it, intending to turn it into an extension of the restaurant. Under the proposed expansion, 15,834 square feet would be added to Mizumi, bringing the total to 22,910.

During a community board meeting addressing the rezoning proposal in May, several board members had the opinion that the rezoning should instead be used to expand Alley Pond Park.

“The current applicants, including the owners of Mizumi restaurant, who are requesting the zoning change, do not wish to attempt to seek a variance in order to construct an addition to their business,” Community Board 11 member Henry Euler said during the May 2 meeting. “They claim it’s too expensive and difficult to obtain. The businesses want to bypass the Board of Standards and Appeals and the public input that allows for variances to be considered.”

Since that meeting, Paladino has drawn input on the matter from Mizumi and the community. As a result of this input, Paladino is calling to reduce the extent of rezoning from 234th Street to 233rd Street in an effort to minimize the effects of the rezoning. Additionally, she secured a commitment on the maximum size and capacity of the expansion in the form of a restrictive declaration, which would make the expansion less likely to disrupt traffic on Northern Boulevard.

According to Paladino, the rezoning gives property owners on Northern Boulevard the ability to invest in their businesses without excessive and costly government oversight. At the same time, with R1-2 zoning remaining in place, tall buildings or apartment buildings of any kind remain unpermitted. By voting in favor of this, Paladino is of the opinion that she’s helping a small business grow to better serve the community while also blocking overdevelopment.

Paladino’s opinion on the matter is based upon a series of factors. She has long stated her concerns about a wholesale rezoning of Northern Boulevard. The decision to cut rezoning isn’t spot zoning. A restrictive declaration from Mizumi to limit the scope of the expansion due to traffic and environmental concerns was obtained by her office. Only single-family homes are permitted under the R1-2 zoning. She noted Community Board 11 actually supported the expansion at one point. Her decision on the matter wouldn’t lead to massive development.

Paladino also stated that while she shares Community Board 11 and the Douglaston Civic Association’s environmental concerns, she obtained a commitment from Mizumi to construct a stormwater management system that incorporates bioretention planters and a below-grade detention chamber. She also noted the Alley Pond Environmental Center supports the application and expressed a commitment to work with the Mizumi owners to mitigate environmental concerns.

Another opinion expressed by Paladino was that the strip on Northern Boulevard couldn’t feasibly be turned entirely into parkland. However, she noted the beautification of that area can occur with environmental, community and small business benefits. Her office has been in discussions with Mizumi to be a major contributor to the beautification effort.

“Since January [2022], I’ve hosted meetings with Mizumi, Community Board 11, Douglaston Civic, the borough president, constituents and small business owners,” Paladino said. “I’ve done my research, listened to all sides and made the necessary adjustments to arrive at a compromise that benefits everyone. Since the beginning of these conversations, I’ve made two things very clear: I support the Chiang family as hard-working small business owners, and I have concerns about a wholesale rezoning. After taking everything into consideration, I’ve made adjustments to my stance as I see fit.”

Paladino expressed the opinion that her vote to approve of the commercial overlay with commonsense modifications would help her achieve her goals of preserving the neighborhoods of her district and supporting small businesses. In her opinion, this process also could’ve resulted in an overdevelopment free-for-all, but negotiations between her and stakeholders allowed for all parties to craft a limited compromise solution that works for everyone.

QNS has reached out to Community Board 11 and is waiting for a response.

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