Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

Two Flushing property owners have built multi-story buildings on a block in hopes the area will be rezoned — a multimillion-dollar gamble that received support from a neighborhood lawmaker last Thursday.

That support, in the form of a letter from City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing), in turn created friction between the lawmaker and the community board.

A group of five property owners is seeking to rezone the block between Fowler and Avery avenues and College Point Boulevard and the Van Wyck Expressway. Regulations currently allow a variety of uses under the category of manufacturing. But the group, which collectively owns 85 percent of the block, wants the City Planning Commission to change the zoning to allow residential, commercial or a combination of both.

And even though the zoning change is still being reviewed, some of the property owners have already spent millions erecting structures that would comply with new regulations.

“Our building was built so it could be converted to residential,” said Fang Xu, speaking on behalf of Jin Ming Real Estate. The company owns a parcel at the intersection of 131st Street and Fowler Avenue, and in 2009 built a structure that is currently being used for industrial purposes. But the real estate firm said it could be converted to a six-story, partial residential building should the zoning pass. The architect working on the rezoning also designed that building, which won a 2011 Design Award from the Queens Chamber of Commerce. Another property owner, represented by Angela Hai, built a similar building for the same reason, she said at the hearing.

The plan was skewered by Community Board 7 last month over uncertainty of what the final product would look like and what leaders said is a lack of development experience on the part of the owners.

Lawyer Patrick Jones, who is representing the group, contends that four of the five owners filing for the rezoning have plenty of experience, with one having built more than 30 supermarkets and another responsible for numerous commercial and residential buildings throughout the city and in Colorado. The Xu family built a 132-unit residential building in Flushing aside from the building they have already constructed on the block in question, according to Jones.

The team received a letter of support from Koo, who hoped the rezoning would revitalize the area, near Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

“The councilman has great respect for the community board and what they do,” said Koo’s chief of staff, James McClelland. “However, in this instance he disagrees with their opposition.”

That did not sit well with the board. Vice Chairman Charles Apelian said Koo’s letter voids the review process, since the Council has the final vote on the matter and members typically vote along the lines of the local lawmakers’ wishes, though Koo’s office contends that giving input after the board makes up its mind is standard procedure.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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