From Bayside Patch:
More than 60 Bayside Hills residents gathered on a piece of land at the corner of 216th St. and 51st Ave. on a chilly Sunday morning – vowing to put the freeze on plans to build a house there.
The corner property, owned by developer Rockchapel Realty, LLC, was divided into two tax lots, with the idea of building a home on what is now a “side yard.” The existing home at the location is being rented, and the developer says that the unimproved land is a “hardship.”
Former City Councilmember now State Senator Tony Avella, D-Bayside, publicized the meeting and came early to show his support for the neighbors against the plan. Avella encouraged the dozens of protestors to cross onto the land. A publicity photo was taken to demonstrate the protestors’ point of how unaccommodating the space was in size.
Councilman Dan Halloran, R-Whitestone, who was also there to back the protestors, declined to stand on the lot to participate in the photo. It is not immediately clear if the group had been granted permission from the landowner to cross onto the property.
“Nobody has attempted to build a house here in over 80 years for a reason,” said Avella, adding, “There is simply not enough room.”
The lot is only 18 feet wide where it meets 50th Ave., and is too small under zoning rules to be built upon. Nevertheless, architect Paul Bonfilio has designed a home for the property, even though it would be illegally close to the homes behind and next to it.
However Bonfilio has applied for a “variance” from the zoning code to permit construction. His application didn’t garner a single vote of support from Community Board 11 when it was reviewed on March 7 and was rejected by Borough President Helen Marshall at a subsequent hearing.
What’s worrying neighbors is that the Board of Standards and Appeals, a collection of professionals appointed by the Mayor, is not bound by the Board or the Borough President – and if they give Rockchapel the go-ahead, the only recourse is in the courts.