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Hotel plans rile Dutch Kills

Steven Bahar, a Long Island-based developer, plans to build a nine-story hotel at 39-25 27th St. in Dutch Kills. The construction site is adjoined on both sides by residential properties.

Rose Parino and her daughter Melinda live at 39-31 27th St,; the Schettino family at 39-39 27th St. Anthony and Yolanda Schettino, 85 and 81, live with their daughter, Vienna Ferreri, and her husband and son, 16.

Vienna Ferreri, 49, said that "we're not anti-development. We just don't want these properties between our homes."

Bahar's property is one of 15 hotel construction projects planned for the Dutch Kills and Long Island City areas, according to a list from City Councilman Eric Gioia's (D-Sunnyside) office. Thirty-eight commercial/residential projects are planned for the area, according to a list from the Long Island City Business Development Corporation.

"It's been a nightmare," said Melinda Parino, 31, of the construction's impact on her home. "How can you let a nine-story hotel go up between two homes?"

Repeated requests for comment from Bahar were not returned.

"I would rather not see any hotels built here," said Jerry Walsh, the Dutch Kills Civic Association president.

A rezoning plan that included an increase in residential density was approved by a "near unanimous vote" of the civic during a November 2005 meeting, Walsh said.

But area business owners expressed disappointment in the plan because it called for downsizing the commercial sector. They want a higher density of commercial space in the rezoning plan and retained Eric Palatnik, a zoning attorney, to represent them.

His clients are not against rezoning, he said.

"They just want the plan to more accurately reflect that there are people who have been living and working in the neighborhood for decades and want to stay. My clients bought their properties with the understanding that they would be able to expand, grow and develop as time went on," he added.

The civic did not ask for any limitations on commercial growth, said Gene Napolitano, the Dutch Kills civic vice president.

Hotels currently have "as-of-right" development rights in certain manufacturing and commercial zones, like Dutch Kills.

"You can just walk into the Buildings Department, fill out the proper forms, pay your fees and walk out with a permit to build," Palatnik said.

During a Valentine's Day civic association meeting, Dutch Kills residents accused Department of City Planning officials of delaying final approval of the rezoning plan for the area so an environmental review could be completed. The final plan called for a large hotel ban in most of Long Island City.

At the meeting, Napolitano said he requested a moratorium on hotel construction until the environmental impact study could be completed and sent to Queens borough DCP Commissioner John Young.

Young said the city cannot "arbitrarily" deny people their property rights, said Napolitano.

By law, the city Department of Buildings cannot withhold a permit application that complies with the building code and zoning resolution, said Carly Sullivan, a DOB spokeswoman, in an e-mail.

The DCP said it was working to expedite the environmental review and other procedures so a public review could begin this spring.

"Working with the Dutch Kills community, we have come up with a rezoning for this unique neighborhood that respects the diverse character and rich detail of this area," said Jennifer Torres, City Planning public information coordinator.

State Assemblywoman Catherine Nolan (D-Ridgewood), who represents the area, opposes the planned construction.

"I support the Dutch Kills Civic Association in all their efforts," said Nolan in a statement. "It is outrageous that City Planning and the Buildings Department have allowed these hotels to be constructed in our community. I urge the city to deal with the situation immediately and support the existing, long-time residential community."

Peter Casini, architect of the Holiday Inn in Long Island City at 29-02 39th Ave., was surprised by the local outcry regarding the hotel construction projects.

"It's odd that there is so much opposition to this major investment in the neighborhood," he said over the phone. "The area proposed to be downsized is over 50 percent manufacturing/residential, not residential."

Dan Miner, the Long Island City Business Development Corporation business services senior vice president, agreed.

"The LICBDC, as the local development corporation for Long Island City, supports continued growth in our many diverse sectors: residential and industrial, commercial and cultural, arts and retail," he said in an e-mail message.

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), chairman of the City Council Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee, said the rezoning plan's final version has not yet been presented to the community. He also supports community concerns.

"The construction planned for Dutch Kills is a classic case of over-development," he said over the phone. "The argument from the community that it [the environmental review process] is slowing down the approval process and allowing hotels to continue construction has some merit," he added.

Avella criticized the city's development and zoning approval process for failing to prioritize residents' concerns at a higher level.

Avella said he is working with the Municipal Arts Society to develop legislation that would transform the development and rezoning process. It would shift city planning procedures so they are driven from the bottom up instead of the top down.

But what has attracted developers to Dutch Kills and Long Island City?

"Market forces are pushing construction here partly because we're only two train stops from Manhattan," said George Stamatiades, the Dutch Kills Civic Association executive director.

Walsh, the Dutch Kills civic president, and civic association leaders emphasize they are not anti-development.

"We'd just like to have a nice residential area that will bring back families and a community filled with children," he said.

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