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City prepares Auburndale, Oakland Gdns. rezone

The City Planning Commission is readying a long-awaited and massive rezoning geared at protecting the communities of Auburndale, Kissena Park, Oakland Gardens and Hollis Hills, but community leaders said initial drafts of the proposal are far from adequate.

City Planning is expected to begin the public approval process on a massive contextual rezoning that would affect upwards of 15,000 homes in northern Queens as early as September. City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said community leaders will be briefed in the coming weeks on an initial draft of the proposal, but urban planner Paul Graziano said many will not like what they will see.

“Some of the things they are proposing are just counter-intuitive. There are some big issues here that are going to get messy,” Graziano said. “I found at least six major flash points that deal with large chunks of the district that need major work.”

The proposal is expected to be one of the largest the city has ever undertaken. The rezoning, geared at protecting neighborhoods from overdevelopment, is split into two parts that span two community boards and three Council districts, but will be entered into the public approval process as one proposal.

The first part of the proposal will be generally bound by 164th Street and Fresh Meadows Lane on the west, the Long Island Rail Road on the north, Francis Lewis Boulevard on the east and the Long Island Expressway on the south and will also include about 30 blocks in the Kissena Park neighborhood.

The second piece of the plan will generally cover the Long Island Expressway on the north, Alley Pond Park on the east, Cunningham Park on the west and 86th Avenue and 86th Road on the south.

Democratic District Leader James Wu, who has also seen the proposal, said the City Planning Commission has suggested that a 50-block area of Kissena Park and Auburndale be rezoned to allow for two-family homes when approximately 73 percent of the area is single-family homes, according to statistics compiled by Graziano.

“We want to preserve the neighborhood. I understand there is a need to grow, but you need to have a neighborhood grow in the same context of what’s there,” Wu said. “If you do this, you’re going to have a lot of people taking advantage. Why destroy the neighborhood like that?”

City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he is irked that the city has not met with him or his constituents, who would be affected by the project, sooner.

“I always say that nobody knows the neighborhood better than the people that live there,” he said. “A coordinated meeting goes a long way to ironing out issues that they may not have realized exist.”

Graziano said he believes Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pressuring the City Planning Commission to rush the proposal ahead of November’s election, and while it is possible to iron out the kinks, size and scope of the project, it means it likely will not go smoothly.

“It is not good enough, not even close,” he said. “There is a fight a brewing.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e-mail at sstirling@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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