By John Tozzi, Times Ledger
In an effort to keep existing houses from being replaced by larger new construction, preservation advocates want the community to think about applying for historic district status less than two years after Bayside was rezoned.
"Folks are realizing that even with the change of zoning, teardowns are still happening," said Paul Graziano, the urban planning consultant whose study formed the basis of the zoning changes in northeast Queens.
Graziano was scheduled to present information on potential Bayside historic districts at a meeting Jan. 11 beginning at 7 p.m. at the Bayside Historical Society in Fort Totten.
Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who commissioned Graziano's study, supports the idea, but both said any historic district proposal needs the support of the community.
"There are pluses and minuses," Avella said. "The plus is you have the ultimate protection. That neighborhood is going to be the way it is today in 50 years, in 100 years, as long as city government is around."
But living in a historic district means residents must get approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission for almost any external changes to the outside of their homes. Those limits will not sit well with some residents who think the new zoning laws are already too restrictive.
"I support [historic districts]," Avella said. "Will I do them in areas where homeowners don't want them? No. But if somebody asked me if I think it's a good idea, I'd say yes."
Even if many homeowners decide they want a historic district, whether they will get one is an open question.
Residents in Richmond Hill, led by the historical society there, have for years sought historic status for the neighborhood's Victorian homes.
Graziano and Avella are pushing a similar proposal for the Broadway-Flushing area as well. Critics charge that the Landmarks Preservation Commission focuses too much on Manhattan and neglects the outer boroughs.
Preservation is Avella's trademark issue, and his district already includes one half of Queens' six historic districts: Fort Totten, Douglaston and Douglaston Hill.
The latter, a small area south of the main Douglaston Historic District on the peninsula, was all but written off by the landmarks commission until a neighborhood effort put it in the spotlight. It was designated in 2004.
"We literally brought that district back from the dead," Avella said.
Graziano said there has never been a proposal for a historic district in Bayside, even though many parts of the neighborhood fit the criteria. If residents support the idea, he thinks it should move forward.
"It is a long process and they're fighting against time," Graziano said.