The idea to legalize basement apartments in the borough and the rest of the city is not sitting well with several civic and community associations in the borough.
Those who oppose the idea pointed out that fires in these units had proven to be deadly, and that increasing the capacity in single- and two-family districts overburden the schools, the sewage system and garbage collections.
The Bayside Hills Civic Association is one of the associations fighting to prevent widespread basement living from becoming a reality. The group disagrees with new zoning regulations being proposed to legalize these apartments.
“A basement is no place for someone to live,” said Michael Feiner, president of the civic group. “Zoning regulations are in place for a reason.” Yolanda Gallagher, of the Fresh Meadows Homeoweners Civic Association, said her organization also opposes these conversions.
“It’s just very unhealthy to live in a basement,” Gallagher said. “This is just a bad idea, a very bad idea.”
She noted that basement apartments do not have good ventilation, and most of them have very small windows. “It’s just dangerous to live in them,” she said.
The Queens Civic Congress, an umbrella organization representing more than 100 civic and condo groups in the borough, is against the legalization of basements “due to life safety, fire, congestion, school overcrowding, crime and overuse of city infrastructure, such as water treatment, sewage and transportation facilities.”
The organizations added, “We believe that most small homes with basements were not built for occupancy below grade.”
In a letter sent by Richard Hellenbrecht, the former president of the Queens Civic Congress, to de Blasio, he noted “legalization of illegal residences would encourage creation of new basements, cellar apartments leading to significant overdevelopment.”
But Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst), agrees with Katz’s and de Blasio’s plan to legalize basements and cellars.