July 29, 2011 Staff Report
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer announced that New York City Council voted to pass rezoning for a 130-block area of Sunnyside and Woodside on July 28, 2011.
The move is a substantial overhaul in zoning ordinances, which govern land use and building shape, which have stood unchanged since 1961.
The rezoning was first presented for public comment and suggestions at a Community Board 2 meeting in February of 2010, after a process the city began in 2007. Van Bramer held three community meetings in conjunction with Community Board 2 in an effort to explain the often complex rezoning details and provide opportunities for community feedback.
Van Bramer said the rezoning would protect the “low density nature of much of the area…and help prevent development that is not in character.”
In 2010, Community Board Chair Joseph Conley said that community itself had initiated the request for rezoning.
“After the fires destroyed Butcher Block, Bloom’s and the Dae Dong Restaurant on Queens Boulevard,” Conley explained, “we learned that the 1961 zoning laws allowed more rebuilding latitude than we thought and we needed to rezone to protect the area before it was too late.”
The rezoning process, conducted by John Young and his team of the Queens Office of the Department of City Planning, got high marks. Rebecca Barker, President of Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, said, “John Young and his associates made themselves available, distributed detailed material, and accepted local input in a meaningful way.”
Former Chamber President Ira Greenberg, now Chairman of the Board, is credited with formally suggesting inclusion in the zoning for small sidewalk cafés on Skillman Avenue. Barker adds, “Ira’s brainstorm will help Skillman continue to advance as a pleasant destination.”
Lily Gavin, on the boards of both the Chamber of Commerce and Sunnyside Shines/BID, the property owners association which is primarily charged with Queens Boulevard and Greenpoint Avenue commercial strips, noted, “The community worked together on this. Taller buildings won’t suit everyone, but growth is already here and better that we all had to agree on the scope and exact areas for that growth for the future, and protect non-commercial areas. We thank Jimmy Van Bramer for his work.”
The community’s historically-inclined members, such as Jeffrey Kroessler and Laura Heim, monitored the process closely in public forums as related to the historic Mathews Model Flats, Sunnyside Yards and Sunnyside Gardens.
Others were worried that the inclusion of more housing would put a further strain on Sunnyside and Woodside’s infrastructure. “Can this area handle any more people and growth?” asks Vincent DeMartino of Woodside. DeMartino adds, “The most important issue to most people here is the lack of open green space. We don’t need growth. I know we have little room, but we need parks.”