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Avella applauds passage of street tree, yard bills

During his six years in office, City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has seen more concrete and less greenery lining the streets of Queens. One Auburndale family was about to be cheated out of having a full backyard, developers were removing trees from the traditionally tree-lined streets of Bayside and an entire city block in College Point was paved over to provide ample parking space.

But thanks to two amendments to the city's zoning code passed by the City Council last week, city streets are about to get greener.

The first amendment will force developers to plant street trees for all new construction or major remodeling projects. The second amendment will forbid developers from paving over a new home's front yard, a practice commonly done to create more parking space, and will also ensure family homes are built with proper backyards.

"This is something we all have to do to make New York City better for the environment," said Avella, who chairs the Zoning and Franchises Committee.

The first amendment, the Street Tree-Planting Amendment, will be enforced in all zoning districts. Developers will have to plant the trees for any new construction or when a building is remodeled to increase 20 percent or more in size. Trees also will have to be planted when 20 percent or more of the building's use is changed between residential, commercial or other uses. Homeowners building a new home are exempt from the code.

In addition, Avella said the Yards Amendment "will finally end the awful practice of paving over front yards in new construction, which is not only an aesthetic issue, but also hurts the environment and overburdens the city sewer system."

The amendments also created fencing regulations that will ensure that all city homes not on a street corner will have regular sized backyards. Before some developers were using a loophole in the zoning code to shortchange some residents on a full-sized backyard, Avella said, adding that "it was a real quality-of-life issue" for some of his constituents.

Both amendments were made effective as of last week's meeting.

Avella said the changes have been on the minds of elected officials for several years now, but he credited the recent passage to Mayor Michael Bloomberg's "finding religion in terms of his 2030 plan" and supporting more green efforts.

Reach reporter Katy Gagnon by e-mail at kgagnon@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

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