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For all the controversy it generated, plans to build two nine-story towers of senior housing and a community center devised by a South Asian group were overwhelmingly voted down by Community Board 13 Monday.
The board voted 22-1 with one abstention against giving a variance to the Indian Cultural and Community Center, which wants to build the apartments and senior housing on a parcel of the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center.
The project caused tension between the area’s civic leaders, who accused the ICCC of misleading them and said the plans were out of character with one-family homes the community, and the Indian group, which contended racism was to blame for the opposition.
Two public hearings were held on the project, which needs a variance because the ICCC wants to build housing in a commercial zone, with both sides making passionate arguments for their cases.
CB 13 Land Use Committee Chairman Richard Hellenbrecht said there were more than 2,220 letters written in opposition to the project and 148 that recommended the board approve the variance.
The Land Use Committee suggested the board vote against the plans and Hellenbrecht said the project “would impose an overwhelmingly negative impact on the safety and quality of life” in the neighborhood.
Derrick Warmington, another member of CB 13’s Land Use Committee, spoke as if he were a judge giving a sentence when he addressed the board.
“This is one of the most difficult issues” the board has ever faced, he said. “Both sides have brought forth strong reasons. I believe that [in] every community, there’s always a need for people to have access to their cultural structure. Having said that, though ... I also look at whether there’s going to be any form of economic hardship that the ICCC will suffer. But, on the other hand, there seems to be a changing from what the previous agreement was for.”
Warmington was referring to claims by civic leaders and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) that the ICCC was not upfront with them about the senior housing and that the community only heard of the plans recently.
Warmington said he would vote against the variance because of the “overwhelming demand of the community [and] civic associations.”
CB 13 member Peter Richards said the ICCC and the community should work together and come to an agreement on a project that is palatable to both groups.
“There has to be some sort of compromise,” he said.
James Jackowski, a Bellerose homeowner for 35 years who was against the variance, said he was pleased by the board’s vote.
“We’ve had enough construction and what-not in that particular area,” he said. “It just doesn’t seem right. It doesn’t conform to the single-family occupancy architecture” in the neighborhood.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.
©2011 Community Newspaper Group
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