Variances, Permits Dominate CB 7 Meeting

BY JOE MARVILLI
Staff Writer

Two members of Community Board 7 got into a screaming match outside of the meeting space, over a variance for a development that the board chose to table until January.

During the board’s monthly meeting on Nov. 25, members voted on whether to approve permits and variances for three Flushing developments looking to build or expand. While two of the items passed, the other request was put on hold so the developer could return in January with an improved traffic impact statement.

The $70 million project, called C.A. Plaza Hotel Indigo, requested two permits and a variance for a dual-building renovation/construction. A 14-story tower and a 12-story tower would fill out a vacant 38,000-square-foot site at 36-18 Main St. The 12-story tower would be a 148-room Hotel Indigo. The remaining tower would be turned into professional offices. In the middle section, there would be a spa.

Board Member Barbara McHugh and a Wei, Wei & Co. representative asked the board for reduced parking as the building expands.  Photo by Joe Marvilli

Board Member Barbara McHugh and a Wei, Wei & Co. representative asked the board for reduced parking as the building expands. Photo by Joe Marvilli

While Richard Lobel, a lawyer with Sheldon Lobel Attorneys at Law, said that the development group had permission to build the structures, but they had to come to CB7 for certain permit approvals.

One permit was seeking permission from the board to waive height restrictions, given the development’s proximity to LaGuardia Airport. The Federal Aviation Administration had already signed off on the waiver and the board approved it 30 to 1.

The second permit was to allow a Physical Culture Establishment, the 26,000-square-foot spa. The board approved the PCE permit by a vote of 22 to 9.

The most contentious part of the evening came about when discussing the development group’s request to change the use of medical facilities in the business tower to office space for professionals. As a part of this change, the group was asking to reduce the number of parking spots it needed to install, from 340 to 305.

CB7 chair Gene Kelty had a problem with the hotel’s parking garage entrance being on Prince Street, around 50 feet away from the intersection of Northern Boulevard. He said that Prince Street is already congested and that a line of cars would build up from people waiting to turn into or out of the hotel.

Frank Macchio, who presented the issue before the board, said that the location of the garage was not what was being voted on, as the project is an as-of-right development. The number of parking spaces and the office usage were what the board should focus solely on, he said.

“You see a $70 million commitment to our community. I don’t see what you’re going to get out of this no vote,” he said.

Kelty responded that the situation did not have uniqueness to demand a variance.

After an hour of arguing, Lobel offered to table the variances until January.

Soon after the vote, Kelty could be heard screaming in argument with another community board member over the tabling, which he voted for. Although the details of the conversation could not be heard, the anger in the voices of both parties was very apparent.

While the variances for the office and hotel development were tabled, two other development requests were approved. First up was a special permit application to reduce the required parking for 133-10 39th Ave., the office of Wei, Wei & Co., LLP, a service accounting firm. The company was seeking to add about 4,000 square feet to the building, creating a space of 12,000 square feet.

A building of this size would normally require parking, but the special permit would drop the number of required spaces to 14. As it stands, if the number of spaces required for a building drops below 15, the business is no longer obligated to provide parking. A representative for Wei, Wei & Co. argued that about 30 of the firm’s 50 employees do their auditing off-site, minimalizing the need for parking.

The board barely voted in support of the permit, with a final tally of 16 to 12.

The other project to be approved was the enlargement of Bodhi Fitness Center, located at 35-11 Prince St.

Reach Joe Marvilli at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, jmarvilli@queenstribune.com, or @Joey788.