Friday, September 5, 2014
Apelian and Vallone support never ending variance
The Station Road Civic Association is asking for your help in opposing a variance renewal request for Utopia Realty located at 167-02 Northern Blvd. The matter is on the CB 7 meeting calendar for Monday September 8, 2014 at 7:00pm. (at the Union Plaza Care Center located at 33-23 Union Street) The variance request is for extension of the term of variance for a one story building that is occupied as a real estate office. The April 18, 1990 extension included a provision that states “there shall be no change in ownership or operating control without prior application to and approval from the Board”. The provision was continued in the 1999 variance renewal. The applicant now requests that this provision be removed. We have been informed that the provision was inserted due to the location of the property within an area covered by the Rickert-Finlay covenant.
The current operator of Utopia Realty is the son of the owner of the property, Paul Luciano. He has no ties to the community and currently lives in Sag Harbor. Though he professes no intention to immediately sell the property or business, the sale will undoubtedly occur within the next few years. He is looking to the removal of this clause and the renewal of the variance for as long a time as possible as a means to maximize his inheritance.
We believe the restriction should be maintained to give the community a means of control over the next occupant and to make that occupant aware of and accountable for the restrictions placed on the property from the inception of their occupancy/ownership. We do not oppose the granting of a 10 year extension so long as the clause remains.
Why the Community Board vice-chair is concerned with the financial welfare of an heir or a successor owner, who if due diligence is done before the purchase will know that the property comes with the extra expense of a variance is beyond logical reasoning.
There is no reason why the Community Board, Borough President or the BSA should be willing to give up their power to regulate and oversee businesses to make them better community members. Once one applicant receives such a “forever” variance, every other applicant will want one too.
Hypothetically, once a business obtains a “forever” variance it is a small step to then request a change in zoning. The theory would be that I have a perpetual variance, so why not just change the zoning to make it legal, there really would be no difference, except for the opportunity to change the type of business and size of the premises, which is actually a really big difference. Mr Apelian contends that the businesses coming in want the re-zoning so they will exist in an area with a commercial overlay. It is a back door way to negate the zoning changes that were approved by the Community Board, Borough President and City Council only a few years ago.
This is a step that would have catastrophic consequences for northeast Queens and the entire city. The entire area along Northern Boulevard from 162 Street to 192 Street and beyond in both directions would be vulnerable to dramatic up-zoning that would render the area unrecognizable over time. Any increases in building size and density would then be requested by owners in adjoining areas.
To date we have met with Assemblyman Braunstein and Senator Avella and have spoken to Paul Graziano, all support our position and will attend or send representatives to the Community Board hearing. Councilman Vallone has not agreed to meet with us prior to the hearing.
Please support our position at the September 8th meeting. Please attend and sign up to speak. It is time for Northeast Queens civics to unite as one voice to acquire greater political clout. It is the only way we will be able to retain the physical integrity of our communities and our way of life against the onslaught of real estate development interests.
Station Road Civic Association
The Vallone banner in the top photo has now been replaced by a John Liu banner. And this sign is in their front door: