May 16, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
A developer’s plan to build a two-tower, 561-unit development along Queens Boulevard in Woodside has received a major blow as Council Member Robert Holden, who represents the district where the project would be located, expressed opposition to it earlier this week.
Holden, before a crowd of angry area residents at a Monday town hall, bashed a proposed rezoning put forth by Madison Realty Capital that would allow for 17 and 14 story towers to rise at 69-02 Queens Blvd., claiming the development is simply too large and would wreak havoc on the neighborhood’s quality of life on multiple fronts.
“This is really kind of counterproductive, isn’t it? It’s not proper city planning,” Holden said to a crowd of about 100 attendees. “I have serious reservations about this.”
Holden’s opposition to the proposal, currently undergoing a lengthy public review process, including stops at Community Board 2 and the Queens Borough President, could indicate that it will be rejected once it reaches the City Council, where other council members are likely to side with Holden’s vote, as is custom.
Holden claims the project, which would take up nearly the entire block between between 69th and 70th streets, would see multiple families with children moving into its hundreds of units and exacerbate a school overcrowding crisis in the district.
He added that while 85 percent of the units would be either studios or one-bedrooms, the development would not deter families from renting them.
Holden, who said he was opposed to the 2006 plan that allowed for higher buildings along parts of Queens Boulevard, including at the proposed site, said he was “still waiting for some good answers” from the developers on his and other resident concerns.
The developers, who are asking for an increased height allowance in exchange for making 30 percent of the units affordable, can build up to 289 market rate units on the property as of right.
“I wasn’t for the upzoning of Queens Boulevard…but certainly we want to keep them to the zone. Here, they’re just going much larger, much bigger,” Holden said. “So I do have some questions.”
Town hall attendees largely echoed Holden’s concerns, with comments overwhelmingly focusing on further school overcrowding as a result of the development, and added strain to what residents say is an overburdened neighborhood in terms of traffic, public transit, and beyond.
Joy Pendergast, a Woodside resident whose children attend the nearby P.S. 229, said the school already had to get rid of an entire grade to make space. Even with the change, the school still seats over 1,400 students.
“How do you promise a community that an amazing school will not be further burdened because there are way too many kids to fit in the building?” she asked the developers. “You got all this space—put a school in it. You wanna help our community? Use that space for a school, because we are maxed out.”
Ross Moskowitz, an attorney representing Madison Realty Capital, however, said their environmental analysis shows the project would not have a threshold issue with school seats because of its mixture of studio to 2-bedroom units.
But Jo Ann Berger, a member of District 24’s Community Education Council, said the developer’s environmental analysis on school seats was wrong. Just one child in each apartment of the proposed project, she said, would bring PS. 229 to over 150 percent capacity.
“What you are doing and proposing to do is criminal to our children’s education,” Berger said. “It should be illegal.”
Other residents worried about the current “nightmare” traffic on 69th street, and what it would look like with the development in place, which calls for 250 parking spots for residents.
“How do you deal with the traffic from 561 units onto Queens Boulevard?” asked Raymond Lee, a neighborhood resident. “There’s just no room…I don’t think these folks are aware of that.”
The developers said their project is “by no means what happens at the end of the day,” and depends on what the recommendations from the board, city council, and beyond are.
The proposal will be voted on by Community Board 2 in its June full board meeting, where the project will then go to the Queens Borough President and City Planning Commission before reaching the City Council.