July 12, 2018 By Tara Law
The City Planning Commission approved a controversial 82nd Street rezoning this week, but several members expressed serious concerns about the development’s impact on traffic.
The commission voted 7 to 2 to approve the rezoning proposal. The plan will now go before the city council for a final vote.
If approved by the city, the rezoning would allow developers Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group to construct a 13-story, 120-unit building at 40-31 82nd St. The building would also include a Target store on the ground floor.
Although the CPC greenlighted the rezoning, several commissioners voiced concern about additional truck traffic. They were not sure what impact the trucks would have on ambulances getting to the hospital nearby.
The commission was the first body with a binding vote to have weighed in on the controversial rezoning. Community Board 4, which rejected an earlier version of the plan, and Queens Borough President Melinda Katz, who approved it, have provided advisory opinions.
Katz backed the proposal, noting that the development would bring a significant amount of permanently affordable units— 42 in all— to the neighborhood. She gave it her blessing after the developer reached an agreement with Councilmember Francisco Moya to increase the number of affordable units from 36 to 42 units and to lower the income thresholds.
However, Community Board 4 voted against the proposal in March when 36 units were proposed. Several members said at the time that they were concerned that the development would exacerbate gentrification in the neighborhood.
On Monday, several commissioners expressed concern but focused their criticism on the project’s potential impact on traffic. Several noted that the businesses planned for the building— particularly Target— will require a significant number of deliveries.
Larisa Ortiz, who was one of the two commissioners to vote “no” on the project, said that she was very concerned about the development’s proximity to Elmhurst General Hospital.
She noted that community members, including the EMT Union, have expressed concern that the loading and unloading of trucks will make it difficult for ambulances to pass by.
Ortiz also criticized the hospital for not commenting on the project, saying that the administration had “inexplicably chose not to weigh in.”
She expressed concern that the developer had failed to provide assurances that emergency vehicles would be able to take a direct route to the hospital when they are north of it. She said the developer only provide assurances that the vehicles approaching from the west, east and south would have a clear path.
“There are nearly 8,000 people who live in the 10-block area directly north of the hospital,” Ortiz said. “For them, those reassurances are no consolation.”
The committee chair, Marisa Lago, also expressed concerns about traffic, but voted “yes.” She noted the need for affordable housing before coming to her decision.
“I am pleased to support this application, which is going to provide permanently affordable housing,” Lago said. “I think it’s a positive step forward.”
She and several other commissioners suggested that the city should consider restricting the building’s loading and unloading times.
Now that the CPC has voted to approve the project, the proposal will go before the City Council and then the Mayor.
With Moya, the local councilmember, having voiced his support for the project, it is likely to be approved. The council typically votes in lockstep with the councilmember of the district where a rezoning is proposed.