BY JON CRONIN
Forest Hills residents packed the Kew Gardens Community Center to protest the proposal of an apartment building on 70th Road between Austin Street and Queens Boulevard that would destroy the community’s beloved Restaurant Row, though civic leaders stressed that no plans have been finalized.
Frank Gulluscio, Community Board 6 district manager, said he was upset at that information he has seen on social media pages.
“The misinformation put out there is horrendously incorrect,” Gulluscio said. “Please feel free to call the board at any time to get the right facts.”
He wanted it clarified that no project had been approved.
Steven Goldberg, CB 6’s Planning and Zoning Committee chairman said, “There is nothing officially proposed by the developer or his representatives.” He added that the presentation was “purely information” and there was no vote to be taken.
Adam Rothkrug, attorney for the developers added that the, “Purpose is to provide information and get feedback from the community.”
He stated in a presentation that the owner is seeking to build higher and they need a special permit to do so.
Rothkrug said he had been reading local social media blogs and wanted everyone to know that the developer purchased the land in 1985 before Restaurant Row was there and there was just a Radio Shack and a handful of retail stores.
He noted that his client developed Restaurant Row and wants to see it continue. “Rather than looking at him as someone who wants to destroy Restaurant Row…. This is someone that wants to continue Restaurant Row, if possible, sometime in the future,” he said.
Any ventilation needed for restaurants on the first floor would have to be vented out the roof of the apartment building, Rothkrug explained.
Current zoning permits 80 feet in height, Lane Towers, which is next door, is set back 50 feet, current context allows an eight story building but they want a 12 story building, said Rothkrug. He added that the developer plans to transfer an “as of right” from an adjacent lot they own on Austin Street to the 70th Road property.
Attendees of the meeting were skeptical because Rothkrug was displaying the apartment buildings renderings on the seat of chair at the front of the room and only briefly held it up for the crowd to see.
Walter Weis, a resident of Lane Towers, said constructing the building would aid in “losing the aesthetic and historical charm of the neighborhood.” He also believes it will take away much needed sunshine from those who would live in the shadow of the building.
Michael Dunne, another resident of Lane Towers, claims he measured 16 feet between his apartment building and restaurant row, and not 50, as claimed by Rothkrug. He said there isn’t a single incidence of one high-rise built against another in Forest Hills and fears if this is built, it would set a precedent.
“We’re congested already,” said Jill Halpern-Steingart, adding that “parking spots are almost impossible to get.” She feels the development will tear apart the neighborhood.
Oleg Kaz, owner of the The Grill on 70th Road said when he opened his restaurant two years ago, there is a clause in the lease that if they want to build they can be evicted. When he spoke to the landlord about the clause, he was told nothing was going up in the near future.
Kaz said he spent over $600,000 on the restaurant and still owes money on it. He said he designed his restaurant for the space provided him now and doesn’t believe he will get it back when the building reopens. Kaz also noted that to vent the restaurants through a 12 story building would cost over one million dollars and is skeptical that the developer would add that into his design.
Reach Reporter Jon Cronin at 718-357-7400 x125, firstname.lastname@example.org or @JonathanSCronin.