BY LYNN EDMONDS
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and local civic groups rallied on Saturday to protest the construction of a home in Bayside that looked, at least to critics, something like the architectural equivalent of taking half a tangerine and half a grapefruit, sticking them together, and calling them one fruit.
To the consternation of the Bayside Hills Civic Association, the Rocky Hills Civic Association and the Lost Community Civic Association, as well as local residents, a developer had purchased half of a symmetrical semi-attached home, knocked it down, and replaced it with an architecturally incongruous and significantly larger structure that Avella estimated to contain six units, though he said the building application claimed it was only three.
Avella put a question to the city.
“When are you going to stop this? When are you going to protect the middle class of this city and homeowners from these crazy, crazy monstrosities?” he asked.
The senator said he had requested the Department of Buildings to investigate and shortly after, they had issued a stop work order.
“The city has now issued a stop work order. Well that’s nice. But how did it get to this point?” Avella said.
Michael Finer, the president of the Bayside Hills Civic Association, and others similarly expressed shock and frustration that the building plans had been approved in the first place.
“Who in their right mind permits something like this to go up? It’s just mind boggling,” Finer said.
Another local resident, Mary Parrino, found the building absurd.
“I would just like to see common sense prevail. There’s no common sense in this structure,” she said.
Aside from concerns about the architecture, civic leaders also worried about overdevelopment.
“When you have this type of development, or overdevelopment, you’re possible messing up the local elementary school if you do too much of this type of thing,” Frank Toner, President of the Rocky Hills Civic Association, said. “But the big thing is for the homeowners they’re losing that peace and quiet. The more you do this, the more you ruin the reason that the people came and bought the homes to begin with. That is just not a fair system and it’s got to stop.”
Though much of the block is comprised of single family and two family homes, an apartment building at the end of the block meant that the city decided to push the zoning designation up to R4, which allows for multiple-dwelling, taller structures than are typically found in the area.
Urban planner Paul Graziano, who had worked with Avella to down-zone much of Bayside, said that this block was, in a sense, the one that got away. He wanted to split the zoning designation in the middle of the block so that the apartment building could be in its own zoning category, but the New York City Department of City Planning wanted to keep it consistent. He said he went back and forth with John Young from the department on the matter.
“This was a really big bone of contention for me,” Graziano said.
He added that there was a possibility of changing the zoning going forward, best done if the community board sponsored an application for a zoning amendment.
“They could definitely put in what we call an amendment to the re-zoning here. It could be done. It’s actually not that difficult,” Graziano said.
But the protesters also worried about the damage that had already been done, and especially about the owner of the other half of the semi-attached home.
“The city should not allow a developer, a speculator, to come in and do that to a semi-attached home. Because what does this owner do now? They have no recourse other than to sell as well,” Avella said.
“I think it should be taken down, it’s a terrible thing to do to the family,” another protester spoke out from the crowd.
Finer said she, too, thought the building should be taken down.
“A precedence has to be set where don’t just [get] a stop work order. Something has to come down. Because otherwise it will repeat, repeat, repeat.”
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, email@example.com or @Ellinoamerikana