BY JAMES FARRELL
Community Board 7 voted in favor of rezoning a portion of 35th Avenue between Linden Place and Farrington Street to allow for a nine-story, 95-foot residential building.
The rezoning was the first proposal brought before the board under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) plan, which mandates that developers include a certain number of affordable housing units whenever a rezoning proposal that could increase residential bulk is brought forward.
The site, located at 135-01 35th Ave., is currently zoned as a M1-1 manufacturing district. The proposal—which ultimately cannot be enacted without City Council approval—would change the zoning to R7-A, a residential zoning designation that includes built-in height limits. The building would include 93 apartments, with 30 percent designated as affordable. The affordable apartments would be priced at 80 percent of the area median income under MIH and the property would include 52 parking spaces.
The original proposal contained a commercial overlay, but CB 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian said that the board worked with Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) and the developer to remove that part of it.
While R7-A allows for greater density than the neighboring R6 zoning designation, it also comes with a height restriction—the developments next door to the property are 147 and 162 feet, respectively.
“If you look around [the site], you’ll see the whole area is R6, all around it,” said lawyer Eric Palatnik, who is representing the developers—Stemmax Realty. “We’re like a little island in the middle of it.”
The difference is the result of the MIH policy, Palatnik said.
“Under the Mandatory Inclusionary Housing provision, you’re required to provide the affordable housing,” Palatnik said. “In exchange for that, the city has recognized that they deserve to have a bump in the zoning.”
Palatnik said that providing the mandated affordable component would make a lower zoning financially infeasible.
Board member and City Council candidate Alison Tan was frustrated that a financial consultant was not present to go into the nuance of that financial disparity. The finances were discussed in more detail during a previous committee meeting, but not before the full board.
“If the feeling is that we’re somehow here to build the affordable and make a windfall on the affordable, that’s not the case,” Palatnik said. “We are asking to make money on what’s left after the affordable.”
Board members who voted “no” said that they were resolved to send a message that Flushing cannot handle more development, congestion and traffic without accompanying infrastructure, such as schools—regardless of whether the rezoning gets approved in the City Council.
“Our schools are bursting, there’s no room for children,” said board member Arlene Fleischman. “There’s no room for all these buildings that are going up. And I think it’s atrocious that we keep coming back to the same thing, these tall, high-rise buildings, whether it’s rentals or condos going up in the same area constantly.”
Apelian argued that infrastructure concerns were legitimate and needed to be raised more with local elected officials. He argued that the community board had achieved a great victory by removing the commercial component—which, he said, would have created even more congestion—with Koo.
“The height factor is—in a contextual zone—95 feet, so we’re not getting a tower in the sky, we’re getting something that’s going to fit in with the rest of the neighborhood,” he said. “And how many times do we get the opportunity to actually effectuate a change? We were able to do this with [Koo].”
Board members discussed several “gaps” in MIH—for instance, if a tenant living in an affordable unit sees a significant income increase, the tenant may continue living in the affordable apartment—taking it away from needier tenants.
The application brought before the board dealt with rezoning, which means the specifics of the designs—but not the height and bulk—could change once the new zoning is set.
The board approved the rezoning in a 30-4 vote.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.