The Bayside Hills community gathered around the corner of 216th Street and 51st Avenue on Halloween to once again protest the second home planned for the narrow lot after the city Board of Standards and Appeals ignored vehement opposition and granted approval to the project.
In March, architect Paul Bonfilio, a former vice chairman of the BSA, submitted an application requesting a variance to allow for a second home to be placed on a subdivided lot. The remaining lot was so small that it would not meet the back and side yard requirements the area’s zoning calls for.
The board granted that variance last month, despite numerous protests at the site, unanimous opposition by Community Board 11 and Borough President Helen Marshall and testimony given at several BSA hearings by elected officials and neighbors.
In reaction to the fervor demonstrated while the application was being considered, City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) announced he had introduced two bills that would give the community a stronger voice when it comes to zoning issues.
In the wake of the decision, Halloran said Monday that his colleague, Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) had agreed to co-sponsor the bill, and that it had the support of majority leader Councilman Joel Rivera (D-Bronx) and minority leader Councilman James Oddo (R-Staten Island).
“The BSA received its power when we changed the charter. Suddenly, they became the last word on variances,” Halloran said. “The BSA is nothing but mayoral appointees.”
Halloran’s legislation would give the community board and the borough president the ability to appeal BSA decisions to the Council and would create penalties for commercial properties operating with expired variances.
Weprin said that, in theory, this kind of power could be used to appeal the Creedmoor proposal — a plan by a South Asian group to build two nine-story senior housing apartment towers and a community center on part of the hospital’s land — should it make its way through the BSA.
Community Board 13 voted last week to oppose the Creedmoor proposal, which needs a variance because plans call for building housing in a commercial zone.
Marshall, CB 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece and Bayside Hills Civic Association President Michael Feiner all stood in support of BSA reform not only as their final chance to possibly prevent the home from being built, but in order to prevent the BSA from granting further controversial variances.
State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) was also on hand to announce legislation he planned to introduce, which would have the BSA composed of two mayoral and three Council appointees.
“I think if the City Council had a majority of appointments, [the BSA] would be more responsive to the public,” he said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.
©2011 Community News Group
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