A community facility such as a church or a school or a medical building or even a college dormitory may be built in most zoning designations as a right without community input. The facility built can exceed the zoning designation regulations.
For example, a building currently under construction in Bayside in an R4 zone should only reach a maximum height of 35 feet. But because this building will have some doctors’ offices in it and is considered a community facility, it gets dispensation from those requirements and will be six stories high, reaching a height of approximately 60 feet. The majority of the units in this so called community facility will be residential in nature. This affects schools, parking, sewers and other infrastructure issues, and impacts negatively on the rest of the community.
The examples of this type of abuse are numerous. The controversy over the building of the dormitory to house St. John’s University students has been in the forefront of the news of late. This six story proposed structure will be built in a residential neighborhood, again, as of right. The university did not even have the courtesy to discuss this matter with the community. It was a surprise. Such highhanded behavior is unacceptable and this type of building is inappropriate for this area.
Consider the day care center that is planned for the corner of Francis Lewis Boulevard and 42nd Avenue in Auburndale. This community facility will accommodate a minimum of 175 children ages 2 to 6. Only two parking spaces will be on-site. The surrounding community is swamped with parked cars since P.S. 130 is directly across the street. This is a heavily trafficked area and the facility will have no drive-in to drop off or pick up the children. In addition, the facility will have a roof top playground and will also have some classrooms in a sub-basement without windows. Is this appropriate or safe for such young children?
The community has major concerns but the facility can go up as of right. The Board of Standards and Appeals will be hearing an application from the developer of this facility to build in a bed of a mapped street on April 8 at 10 a.m. but the agency has no obligation to act on the concerns or needs of the community. This is not right.
It is obvious that significant changes must be made to the community facilities part of the zoning code. Councilman Tony Avella has set forth several proposals that should ameliorate the problems. His proposals would reduce the bulk bonus that community facilities currently enjoy, reduce the number/type of facilities that qualify as community facilities and prohibit community facilities from violating height restrictions in the zoning code. Other proposals are under consideration as well.
The bottom line is that we must work to ensure the stability of our communities and our quality of life. Community facilities are necessary but must not impact negatively on their neighbors.