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Zone’s Fatal Flaws

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Members of the South Canarsie Civic Association are encouraging residents to speak out against what they believe is a flawed rezoning initiative.

The Department of City Planning is expected to hold hearings on its rezoning plan for a large section of Canarsie on Wednesday, May 6, at 9:30 a.m. The hearings will take place at the Klitgord Auditorium at the New York City College of Technology, 285 Jay Street, in Downtown Brooklyn.

“Usually people have to go to Reade Street in Manhattan, so it’s good that the hearings are going to be held in Brooklyn,” South Canarsie Civic Association president Mary Ann Sallustro explained to a grouping of 20 residents at her recent meeting at the Hebrew Educational Society on Seaview Avenue. “We’re going to be the first item on the calender because they’re expecting hundreds of people for the other hearings.”

City Planning members will also be holding holding hearings on rezoning proposals for Brighton Beach and Coney Island that day, officials said.

The rezoning of Canarsie −− which focuses on 250 blocks bounded by Paerdegat Basin, Paerdegat Avenue North and Ralph Avenue to the west, Canarsie Park and the Belt Parkway to the south, Fresh Creek on the east and Foster Avenue, Farragut Road and Avenue D to the north −− intends to protect the “low−rise, low−density character of the neighborhood,” according to the Department of City Planning website.

City officials fear that without the rezoning, development in Canarsie, predominantly considered a low−rise and low−density residential neighborhood that has been “experiencing development pressure in the last several years,” will be inconsistent with the prevailing scale.

“The community has been concerned with an increased frequency of one− and two−family homes being torn down and replaced with attached multi−family developments, eroding the character of certain blocks,” city officials said in their report. The city’s proposal calls for R−4 and R−5 zoning, which they believe would sustain the existing character. Usually, R4 and R5 zoning includes semi−detatched one− and two−family homes.

The Department of City Planning also wants tp “upzone” the commercial districts along Flatlands Avenue and Rockaway Parkway between Foster and Flatlands Avenue to a new R5D designation, which would allow ground−floor retail and two stories of housing. The zoning also allows four−story residential buildings, which Sallustro and South Canarsie Civic Association members oppose.

“With R5D, someone can take a one− or two−story building and build a four−story building,” Sallustro said. “If that developer chooses to put a community facility in the building, they’re allowed an extra story, which means a five−story building could be built on Rockaway Parkway.”

Buildings this size would be “like a skyscraper” when compared to the current housing stock in the neighborhood, added South Canarsie Civic Association member Steven Kaye.

“Many of these are small pre−war buildings,” he said. “When they go, what’s going to happen to the parking? What’s going to happen to the side streets?”

“[The city] is giving the community lip service when they speak about downzoning to preserve the neighborhood,” Kaye added, claiming that some of the zoning changes will allow developers to build five−story buildings on ‘bungalow blocks” in Remsen Heights and other areas below sea level. “What’s coming up now was rewritten by the city’s Economic Development Corporation, which strictly pushes for growth and new businesses.”

“The city has no interest in preserving anything,” he said.

City officials said that both Community Board 18 and Borough President Marty Markowitz have already signed off on the zoning proposal.

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