THE COURIER/Photo by Eric Jankiewicz
John Hatzopoulos stands at the border between the co-ops and a long strip of endangered wooded land.

Bayside’s Community Board 11 rejected a developer’s request Monday night to build a parking lot on a pristine patch of land that runs along 77th Avenue after neighborhood residents banded together to stop the destruction of open space protected under decades-old zoning.

Oakland Gardens resident John Hatzopoulos spearheaded a grassroots effort since early February to save a piece of land that residents say gives the neighborhood its charm.

“We put a lot of hard work into spreading the news that they were trying to bring the trees down,” Hatzopoulos said. “But it was worth it. So many people came out to save the trees.”

The property owner, Windsor Oaks Tenants Corp., built a complex of co-ops in the 1950s along with a city agreement that they would leave a strip of land undeveloped. The land separates the co-ops from residential homes on 77th Avenue, where Hatzopoulos and his fellow troop of tree lovers live.

But the corporation tried to renegotiate its deal with the city in an attempt to turn the land into a community building and a parking lot, according to the request they submitted to Community Board 11.

Residents worried that the creation of a parking lot would destroy their quality of life, greatly increase traffic and make the area dangerous for their children.

The corporation did not return calls for comment but several representatives attended the meeting. They argued that the parking spaces are needed to fulfill their contractual obligation to provide parking spaces for the co-op’s residents.

But the community board ultimately rejected the corporation’s request and the decision will now be sent to Borough President Melinda Katz before it ultimately goes up to the Board of Standards and Appeals, the city panel that determines whether zoning variances can be granted.

“I’m really hopeful that we’ll be able to fight this all the way up the government ladder,” said Hatzopoulos, speaking for the several hundred residents who signed a petition against the corporation’s request. “We care about these trees and no one has the right to take them away.”

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