A massive city proposal to rezone hundreds of blocks in Ozone Park would maintain the neighborhood’s residential character and be a major boon to the area’s economy, allowing for such businesses as bookstores and larger restaurants to move into shopping hubs like Liberty and 101st avenues, Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and other civic leaders said this week.
The city Department of Planning’s proposal – the first of its kind since 1961 which stemmed from concerns from community boards 9 and 10, elected officials and civic organizations – would rezone about 530 blocks in an effort to “reinforce the area’s predominant one- and two-family residential character and direct moderate amounts of new residential and mixed-use development to locations along the area’s main commercial corridors and near mass transit resources,” according to a city statement. The department recently launched its public outreach portion of the proposal process, which will include presentations to various civic groups and community boards 9 and 10, and Ulrich said he expects the City Council to vote on the proposal by the end of the year.
Prior to a vote by the City Council, the proposal would go before community boards 9 and 10.
“This rezoning is long overdue and will definitely have a positive impact on the community for many years to come,” said Ulrich, who in 2010 asked the city to conduct the study. “Ozone Park demands a more flexible blueprint that allows for responsible development but also protects the character and integrity of the neighborhood.”
The proposed area for the rezoning is generally bounded by Rockaway Boulevard, Atlantic Avenue and 101st Avenue to the north, the Van Wyck Expressway and Lefferts Boulevard to the east, the Belt Parkway to the south, and the Brooklyn borough line to the west.
A number of the areas in the study would be zoned to ensure the houses remain smaller, with 50 blocks, including 114th Street, becoming R3A – a district characteristic of a number of the city’s older neighborhoods which features single- and two-family detached residences. Only one- and two-family detached homes on lots that must be at least 35 feet wide would be permitted in the R3X zone, which would impact about 54 blocks, including 115th Street. All, or portions of, 130 blocks, including 117th Street, would become R4A, allowing for one- and two-family detached houses that would be located on slightly smaller lots than those in the R3X districts. The city would designate all, or portions of, 215 blocks as R4-1, including 133rd Avenue, which permits one- and two-family detached or semi-detached units. Thirty-one blocks, including 77th Street, would be zoned R4B, and about 11 blocks, including 76th Street, would be designated as R5B – both of which would allow for what are typically low-rise rowhouse districts.
About eight blocks would be zoned R5D, including part of Union Turnpike, which the Planning Department said is designed to encouraged residential growth along major corridors in “auto-dependent areas of the city.” About 13 blocks would be zoned R6A, including portions of Liberty Avenue, which can include six- or seven-story apartment buildings set near the street line, and about 215 blocks would include the R6B designation – which is often characterized by traditional rowhouses that are set back from the street and include stoops and front yards.
“Residential zoning in the study area has remained unchanged since 1961 and allows a wide range of building types that may not be compatible with the traditional building character of Ozone Park,” the Planning Department wrote in a statement.
Ozone Park Civic Association President Howie Kamph also stressed that it would keep Ozone Park the way people want it – smaller houses on tree-lined streets, while paving the way for larger-scale commercial developments by allowing businesses to take over several storefronts for one establishment.
“It keeps the neighborhood looking like it should, rather than a sore sight,” Kamph said. “In the commercial areas, something like a T.G.I. Friday’s or Applebee’s would be able to come to the area – that’ll be good to bring bigger businesses in there, but bigger box stores, like a Target, wouldn’t be able to open.”
Ulrich too emphasized the impact of the rezoning on the area’s economy, noting that rezoning would deter the types of stores residents have tired of – such as nail salons or 99 cent shops – and encourage other types of businesses to open.
“It would allow for larger and more expansive economic development projects – restaurants, gyms, coffeehouses, and bookstores could potentially be developed,” Ulrich said. “At the same time, it would guard against some big-box stores – you wouldn’t see something like a Costco or Home Depot pop up.”
City Planning representatives also noted that the study builds upon the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill rezoning that was adopted last year. That rezoning covered 229 blocks in Woodhaven and Richmond Hill, and also aimed to protect one- and two-family houses while encouraging more commercial development along such areas as Jamaica and Atlantic avenues.
By Anna Gustafson