Today’s news:

Astoria rezoning public review begins next month

The public review process began this week for a plan to rezone sections of Astoria for the first time in 49 years that includes height limits for buildings in the community as well as allowing for new commercial development.

The project, which envisions a mixture of downzoning for Astoria’s residential neighborhoods and upzoning for more commercial districts, is the first rezoning in the community since 1961. A total of 240 blocks in western Queens will be rezoned as part of the project.

On Monday, Department of City Planning Commissioner Amanda Burden said the proposal’s public review process officially began this week. Astoria’s Community Board 1 has 60 days to approve the proposal, which will then go before Borough President Helen Marshall, the DCP and the City Council.

“We have now created an opportunity for homeowners to improve and expand their property in context with the surrounding area while preventing the creation of out-of-character buildings,” Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said.

On Feb. 16, CB 1 will hold a hearing for the community on the proposal at 6 p.m. at 36-01 35th Ave.

The project’s boundaries are 20th Avenue in the north, Steinway Street in the east, Broadway in the south and Vernon Boulevard, Eighth Street, 14th Street and the East River in the west.

Areas south of the Grand Central Parkway currently have high-rise buildings as tall as 20 stories, while sections of Vernon Boulevard and 21st Street have included zones with no building height limits.

“Astoria is renowned for its ties to the Greek heritage of many of its residents and it is a culturally rich shopping and dining mecca,” Burden said. “We have worked extensively with the community to craft a comprehensive new zoning plan so the neighborhood will no longer be threatened by out-of-scale new developments.”

Under the plan, areas north of the parkway would be limited to three stories, while sections of Steinway Street as well as 23rd and 24th avenues would only be allowed to have four-story structures.

Buildings along parts of 31st Street and Ditmars Boulevard would be limited to seven stories.

The project would create commercial zones in the community as well as encourage the creation of affordable housing, especially near 21st Street, Vernon Boulevard and Newtown Avenue.

“It’s important that we have development in the neighborhood that will respect and maintain the character of Astoria as a residential community,” state Assemblyman Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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