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Community Board Blocks Proposal for Apartment on Historic District Roof

By Katie Honan | April 17, 2015 2:17pm | Updated on April 17, 2015 5:38pm
 The proposal would build forty apartments in four stories on the roof on 37th Avenue. 
Board Votes Down Proposal for Apartment on Historic District Roof
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JACKSON HEIGHTS — Community Board 3 voted against a proposed addition on top of a commercial building in the historic district after residents said it would alter the neighborhood's character, create more congestion and set a precedent for developers along the strip to build higher.

Despite the local vote against the plan, the owner of 84-11 to 84-23 37th Ave. and his team of architects will still present their design for a rooftop addition to the Landmarks Preservation Commission later this spring.

It's the first time the proposal will go to the LPC after the architects have made five bids over the past two years to the community board, according to Howard Weiss, the lawyer for building owner Charlie Patel. 

Dozens of neighbors came out to encourage board members to vote against the plan, which calls for 40 residential units and the renovation of the ground-floor retail.

Charles Knight, a project manager from Angelo Ng & Anthony Ng Architects/Architects Studio PC presented renderings of the four-story addition in an art-deco style that will have curbside bioswales and a courtyard for residents in the back. 

The owners will renovate the ground floor — which is currently home to seven stores — and will include community space for a local organizaion at below-market rent, Knight said.

It's not clear what will happen to the stores currently on 37th Avenue, but in February the owner of Kelly's Cleaners, Alex Chin, said he was on a month-to-month lease and he wasn't being told what would happen.

Developers will also create a parking garage for 36 cars below the building, Knight said. 

The building's design "tries to maintain the character" of the historic district, Knight said, which was designated in 1993 to preserve the original vision of Jackson Heights as a planned community with spacious apartments and green space between buildings.

He pointed to the many large buildings surrounding the proposed addition, and said it made sense contextually within the neighborhood.

Every public speaker disagreed.

Gloria Daini, president of the Queensboro Houses Association — which is made up of the twelve original co-op groups, representing 85 buildings — said the plan would "violate the balance between density and the preservation of light and air of our commercial district."

She feared the construction on 85th Street would give the go-ahead to other one-story commercial owners on 37th Avenue to build up, just as the owners of the strip of stores next to Patel's did after their building was gutted by a fire in 2010.

That building opened last year.

"Just because something can be done does not mean that it should be done," she said.  

Councilman Danny Dromm said the one-story commercial strip of 37th Avenue was an "intentional choice" by the neighborhood's developers, the Queensboro Corporation, to separate retail space from garden suburb they created, beginning in 1914.

He said he was "strongly opposed" to the plan. 

Board members took a vote after the nearly two-hour meeting, and the majority voted against it. 

Weiss said they believed in their proposal and the way it fit in with the history of the neighborhood.

"We certainly are disappointed with the outcome, but we still believe very strongly that the present context of the area is appropriate with what we proposed," he said.

"We look forward to presenting to the Landmarks Preservation Committee."