Community Board Approves Rezoning of 52nd Street Sites, After Much Debate
Nov. 12, 2019 By Christian Murray
Community Board 2 approved a rezoning plan that will bring at least 60 apartments to 52nd Street in Woodside.
Developers Steven and Roy Pomeranz were given the thumbs up by the board to rezone a number of parcels on 52nd Street—between Queens Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue—in their quest to construct an 8-story, 60-unit apartment complex at 43-13 to 43-21 52nd St.
The application, to rezone the sites from R5B to R7A (with a C2/3 overlay), will go onto the borough president for review, and then go before the City Planning Commission and City Council for a vote. Without the rezoning, the Pomeranz brothers will be limited to about 18 units—likely consisting of six, three-story town houses.
The Pomeranz family have owned the sites for nearly 60 years, when they founded Baby King and operated a warehouse from 1962 to 1996 along the strip, before moving their plant to Jamaica Queens. The parcels have been vacant since.
But the vote was not straight forward despite the board having little concern about the size of the proposed building or the number of units.
The original motion to approve it was rejected by a vote of 11 for the motion and 18 against. That motion included two provisions that troubled some of the board members: that the developers pay prevailing wage to construction and service workers; and that the community facility space on offer be for a community-based non-profit only.
The board was largely in agreement as to the building itself, which will see 15 of the 60 units dedicated for affordable housing–for people earning 60 percent of the average median income. The building will also include 4,000 square feet of commercial space; 4,600 square feet for a community facility; and space for 43 vehicles.
The disagreement was over prevailing wage and the definition of community facility space, which in zoning terms refers to medical offices, schools (including for-profit schools), non-profits and similar uses. One board member argued that the space should strictly be for local non-profits—as opposed to for-profit businesses or medical facilities– and be 5,000 square feet.
The developers aim to find a school to fill the community space, although they have not identified a tenant.
Christine Hunter, a board member, argued that the development is small and that the prevailing wage conditions would make it tougher for the project to be financially feasible–particularly with the affordable housing component. She also argued that landlords are struggling to find commercial tenants and that restricting who can occupy the community facility would also represent a hardship.
However, some took exception to Hunter’s argument, saying that affordable housing should not mean less than prevailing wage.
Hunter, nevertheless, put forward a motion to approve the development without the prevailing wage condition as well as not imposing further restrictions on how the community facility space can be used. The motion passed by 18 to 11.
The rezoning will also incorporate three sites that are not owned by the Pomeranz family that are also located on the east side of 52nd Street between Queens Boulevard and Roosevelt Avenue.
The Pomeranz application, as per City Planning’s request, would also see the site of El Renuevo Church at 43-25 52nd St., Alpha auto shop at 43-27, and a three-story apartment building at 43-09 upzoned to R7A. The upzoning of these properties could potentially result in an additional 76 units—on top of the 60 units.
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