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The ‘ayes’ have it

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The spectre of out−of−scale development no longer hangs over Canarsie.

On June 30, the City Council unanimously approved the long−awaited rezoning of the neighborhood.

With the passage of the plan by the City Council, the new zoning crafted by the Department of City Planning (DCP) goes into effect. The 250−block rezoning plan for Canarsie had already been approved by Community Board 18, Borough President Marty Markowitz and the City Planning Commission.

“Obviously, this has been a long time coming,” noted City Councilmember Lewis Fidler, who has pushed for the rezoning for the past several years. “It’s a huge, huge victory for the entire Canarsie community, all the civic organizations and all the elected officials. It’s historic. It’s the largest rezoning in the history of the office. My colleagues were in awe at the magnitude of the rezoning.”

Overall, the goal of the rezoning, according to DCP, is preservation. With 83 percent of the neighborhood’s building stock one and two−family homes, and only 10 percent multi−family structures, the revised zoning, DCP Commissioner Amanda Burden had previously stated, “Better reflects the distinctive character of this quiet residential community.”

Thus, areas of freestanding homes and semi−detached homes have been rezoned to reflect that, while areas of rowhouses have been put into a zoning district appropriate to the built environment. DCP, said Fidler, “went block by block to make sure that the only thing that could be built on the block is what is consistent with the blocks around it.”

The R5D district is now in effect for certain sections of the area’s commercial strips: Avenue L, Flatlands Avenue and Rockaway Parkway. It allows ground floor retail (with a commercial overlay), with two stories of housing above, but could also allow four−story residential buildings.

The R5D zoning had been one of the bones of contention, that worried some area residents who had opposed the proposal for that reason.

Looking ahead, Fidler said that residents should keep an eye on development sites in the neighborhood, keeping track of, “Whether or not they have their foundations poured.”

While the final stages of previous rezonings in the borough have been accompanied by frenzied activity on the part of developers trying to vest their projects in the old zoning by completing the buildings’ foundations, Fidler said he was not aware of the same level of activity in Canarsie in recent days.

For this, he cited, “The tightness of the credit market right now. I suspect that developers are unwilling to lock themselves into developments by pouring the foundations without having their financing in place. We may have been lucky. And, the new zoning will protect Canarsie when credit loosens up.”

Nonetheless, said Fidler, residents should let his office know, “If they see the beginning of development activity, so we can check with the Department of Buildings to make sure they are being built legally under the new zoning.”

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