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Developers Aim to Build 13 Story Building on Former Jackson Heights Cinema Site, Seek Rezoning

Rendering

Feb. 28, 2018 By Tara Law

Developers are seeking a controversial zoning change that would bring a 13-story, 120-unit building to 82nd Street— the site of the former Jackson Heights Cinema.

Many residents and civic groups are alarmed by the proposal, which they say would undermine the character of the neighborhood and drive up real estate prices. They are also concerned about school overcrowding and claim the project would exacerbate street traffic and subway congestion.

Developers Sun Equity Partners and Heskel Group are permitted under current zoning to build a 9-story, 77-unit building at 40-31 82nd Street. However, should the property be rezoned, they would be able to construct an additional four floors and 43 dwelling units.

The developers’ rezoning plans were certified by the NYC Department of City Planning on Jan. 29.

The developers purchased the property, an irregularly-shaped lot located about one block from Roosevelt Avenue, in Sept. 2016 for $27 million. The former movie theater was demolished last fall.

Neighborhood critics argue that the building—which would be 145 feet tall—would be too big and would overwhelm the mostly six or seven story buildings in the vicinity. The only other large building in the area is the 11-story Elmhurst Hospital, which is a block and half away.

The building would have three commercial floors, including a cellar, at its base. That space would consist of ground floor retail, community facilities (a non-profit has been selected) and other commercial uses.

Target has agreed to be a tenant, and would take 22,700 square feet for an ExpressTarget store. The company signed a 15-year lease in April 2017.

The remaining 11 floors would contain 120 apartment units, including up to 36 affordable units. The plans also call for 128 parking spaces at the sub cellar level. The developers aim to complete the project by 2020.

The plans were put in front of the City Planning Commission on Jan. 29, kicking off the nine-month Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) process. The commissioners raised concerns about the scale of the development.

“It’s essentially double the height of the R6B buildings,” said Commissioner Anne Levin, referring to the surrounding six-and-seven story structures.

The commissioners also noted that the three roads that border the site— 82nd Street, Ithaca Street and Baxter Avenue— are classified as “narrow streets,” which could create issues with congestion on the roadways.

The entrance to the building for the residents would be on Baxter Street, according to the plans.

Community organizations Newtown Civic Association and Queens Neighborhoods United have expressed concerns about the impact of the development on the neighborhood.

The groups argue that the new building would hurt independent retailers, increase street traffic and put additional pressure on public transportation.

The organizations also say that the plans do not include enough affordable housing units and that they would be too expensive given the income levels of Jackson Heights and Elmhurst residents.

The developers have put forward two affordable housing options in accordance with the Mandatory Inclusion Housing (MIH) text required by city law. They have yet to decide which one.

Jackson Heights Cinema (Photo: CinemaTreasures.org)

The first option under MHI would be to set aside 25 percent of the units to households that make up to 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), or about $57,240 for a family of four. The second option would be to set aside 30 percent of the units for those who make up to 80 percent AMI, or about $76,300 for a family of four.

The AMI, which is based on the income levels of residents of the New York region, is deemed too high for low-income residents in the neighborhood.

Grassroots organization Queens Neighborhoods United, which advocates against gentrification and displacement, claims that the developers have shown a “blatant disregard and disrespect toward out community.”

The group, in a letter, accuses the developers of ignoring the impact of the building “on access to transportation, the safety of its workers, affordable housing, mom and pop small businesses, congestion in the area and access to the nearby Elmhurst Hospital.”

The organization said that it was particularly concerned about Target, claiming that the retail giant has history of driving small businesses out of business.

Site today

Leslie Ramos, the executive director of the 82nd Street Partnership— which represents businesses along two and a half blocks of 82nd Street, including the building site— said that the reaction of area businesses is mixed.

“It depends on the kind of business,” Ramos said. “The restaurants and services are very eager because there will be more foot traffic. Retail is more concerned.”

The 82nd Street Partnership has not taken an official position on the rezoning, Ramos said. She said the decision is best left to the community.

The plans are in the midst of going before Community Board 4 as part of ULURP process. The community board will be holding a public hearing on the proposal and submit a recommendation to the City Planning Commission.

After the community board has submitted a recommendation, the request will be reviewed in turn by the Borough President, the City Planning Commission, the City Council and finally the Mayor.

A public hearing is scheduled for March 13 at 7 p.m. at Elmhurst Hospital, Room A122. The community board will vote on the proposal immediately after the public hearing.

The developers did not respond to a request for comment on this story.

NOTE: The first 18 minutes of video covers the proposal

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13 Comments

Jackson man

People need to have the neighborhood to be rezoned because it’s good for biz and taller buildings require to have parking. Look at Jackson heights, there are so many lowrise buildings that don’t require building parking spots, now people can drive around for hours and couldn’t get a parking spot.




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SWR

A little behind the times? We have to travel back to circa 1880 to a hear a thirteen-story building in NYC referred to as “tall” and “huge”. Also, not sure what is so precious about the cityscape south of, and under, the 7-train and worthy of preservation? If you think the 42nd Street/Times Square area was a pedestrian shopping street 20 years ago before it became Disneyland on steroids then, sure, Roosevelt Ave is a pedestrian shopping street serving…. well, who is it serving exactly? Certainly not the vast majority of residents in the immediate neighborhood!




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Richie V The Rabid Activist

Balance is needed

J Hts cannot continue
to go vertical

Density
Density
Density

What about our Grid ?

Electrical
Gas
Sewers
Water

What is the point
of Saturation ?

Compromise

10 stories
… same 100 car
parking
… this to side with
street parking
… open to public




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Jackson Head

Before zoning is changed city officials should make sure public transportation actually works. 7 E F M R trains are at full capacity every morning and evening. People can not physically fit on them. I guess city officials are too busy taking money from developers under the table to ride them!!




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Ken Okrend

Our city needs more housing. I’m happy for this rezoning, and wish more neighborhoods would do the same.




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Kevin

Ken- Are you for real? Just changing “zoning laws” is not the answer as a matter of fact it’s one of the main reasons why this area of Queens is in the mess it’s in. We need to do the necessary upgrades to infrastructure first and when the higher standards and requirements of the rezoning are in place then and only then should the rezoning or variance be granted.




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R.Guimaraes

These developers are popping up everywhere , putting building all over , that toxic waste land at Willis Point is too dangerous to live in also.




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R.Guimaraes

Insane , a Building that tall in such a little space is dangerous – another example of trying to make a buck at the expense of public safety




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Jackson man

Like you don’t get scared walking around times square. They plan to give 20% affordable housing




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Sean

The new proposed building is huge. Where are you going to park 100 cars in an underground garage. They should kill this project, and return to the original plans.




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Kathryn

Too high for the neighborhood. The building should be 5 or 6 stories high. Also the traffic will be horrendous. It is a pedestrian shopping street, not Northern Blvd. Yuk.




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Jackson man

Yeah, but it’s ok to build in Manhattan but not in Jackson heights. People are piling up in 1br apartment, but no one talks about crowds and congrat subway. Fake news




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