Queens Community Board 9 meeting highlights worries over ‘City of Yes’ initiative and cannabis dispensaries

Community Board 9 gathers inside Queens Borough Hall, in Kew Gardens, during its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
Photo by Anthony Medina

During the Community Board 9 monthly meeting at Queens Borough Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 14, growing concern about Mayor Eric Adams’ “City of Yes” initiative, proposed adult-use cannabis retail dispensaries and liquor license applications occupied a packed agenda.

A presentation on the “City of Yes” initiative by Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant and historic preservationist, shared key information on how the city’s project will affect residents within the community board’s district.

The initiative aims to change and eliminate the city’s zoning regulations to broaden the capability of where businesses can set up shop, create more affordable housing, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the NYC planning website.

In his presentation, Graziano pointed to several problematic areas he believes are laid out in the city’s economic and housing proposals within the “City of Yes” initiative.

He called into question the proposed transformation of one-family dwellings into potential multifamily homes — mostly in part of what’s classified as “gentle density zones” that will see the elimination of parking and yard space — in addition to the placement of business storefronts within residential zoning neighborhoods.

“For communities like Kew Gardens and communities all over the city, any one of these proposals is a death sentence,” said Graziano. “And all of them together are a nuclear bomb for our communities.”

Board members also shared their concerns about the “City of Yes” initiative, with some pointing to a predicted increase in flooding due to the shrinkage of yard space in residential areas and quality-of-life concerns over businesses that are allowed to squeeze into residential developments.

Shortly after the discussions surrounding the mayor’s initiative, the topic of applications for conditional adult-use cannabis dispensaries took center place for the board. Three proposed sites for cannabis dispensaries, as part of the Office of Cannabis Management rollout of legal retail dispensaries were shared with the board for Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens.

There was no motion for the board to make a vote regarding the proposed sites, but it didn’t come without discussion and opposition from the public. The positioning of these proposed sites was brought into question based on the proximity to educational institutions.

A 20-year resident of Richmond Hill voiced his concerns during the public forum portion of the night and claimed the incident involving an illegal smoke shop on Jamaica Avenue furthers community concern on the placement of these proposed cannabis shops.

A representative from AAR CANN LLC, one of the businesses wanting to set up a dispensary on 12-34 Queens Blvd. in Kew Gardens, pointed to the illegal smoke shops as the main issue and claimed adding legal dispensaries will help to put the illegal shops out of business.

The other two proposed locations for dispensaries in Richmond Hill were 110-04 Jamaica Ave, in Richmond Hill, under Mazal 126 Corp., and 130-4 Jamaica Ave., under the name Budega Queens Club.

CB9 Chair Sherry Algredo said the board would ask for OCM to send a list of what qualifies a cannabis site and discussions will continue in the Liquor License and Cannabis Committee.

The applications for liquor licenses and wine, beer, and cider license applications were also up for discussion during the monthly meeting.

The board voted to oppose all three businesses seeking licenses due to neighborhood complaints and issues with their application filing. Those businesses up for licenses included BENR Office Group LLC, Blend Restaurant & Lounge, and The Best Seafood & BBQ Chicken Corp.

One moment at the top of the night brought board members and the public to the attention of two tragedies in the board’s neighborhoods. The board took a moment of silence for the death of Krystyna Naprawa, a school crossing guard fatally struck by a driver in October and Jasmer Singh, a man of Sikh faith who was killed in a road rage incident in the same month.

The 102nd Precinct Commanding Officer, Capt. Jeremy Kivlin, also acknowledged the two deaths in his remarks. He called the last few months troubling for the precinct and regarding the death of Singh, he had stern words to share.

“I just want to say right now that there is no place for these crimes against Sikhs or any culture within the 102nd Precinct and I make it a point to make sure that these people are brought to justice,” said Kivlin.

Kivlin reminded residents to practice caution with their belongings, especially their vehicles since there’s been an increase in car thefts. He recommended residents purchase steering wheel locks for their cars and not leave car keys near the front of their homes.

District Manager James McClelland was not in attendance due to the death in the family, so the board shared their condolences and support for McClelland during this difficult time.

In other agenda items, the board made a motion to approve the capitol and expense budget requests for the following fiscal year, which was passed unanimously. They also announced the annual Toy Drive for their office and in partnership with Queens legislators. More information regarding drop-off sites can be found on the CB9 Facebook Page and local elected officials’ websites.

Community Board 9 represents the neighborhoods of Kew Gardens, Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven.