Monday, January 18, 2010

City Plans to Cut Front Yard Paving, Promote Planting by Stehen Geffon - Queens Chronicle

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Thomas Smith of the Department of City Planning explains the proposed new rules to CB 10 members. Photo by Stephen Geffon

Regulations proposed by the Department of City Planning that would restrict single- and two-family homeowners from paving over their front yards to create parking spaces, as well as new curb cuts, were the subject of a Community Board 10 hearing last week in South Ozone Park.

The Residential Streetscape Preservation amendment addresses the concerns of residents and elected officials that parking in front yards and inappropriate curb cuts disrupt the character of a neighborhood, according to the DCP. The proposal would also close loopholes in front yard planting requirements, establish new curb cut rules in medium- and high-density districts to preserve on-street parking spaces and clarify parking obligations for new and existing buildings. Homeowners who have already paved over front yards would not be subject to the proposed new regulations.

Thomas Smith of City Planning explained the goals and objectives of the proposed new rules to board members. Smith said the amendment would ensure that adequate parking is provided for new units added to existing buildings.

The amendment applies stricter parking rules to one- and two-family homes by prohibiting new parking pads in front yards and new curb cuts at row house buildings less than 40 feet wide with planted front yards and no front yard parking, as well as introducing curb cut rules to preserve streetscape character and on-street parking spaces. It would require owners of certain existing residential buildings to add parking spaces to their property when adding new residential units.

Frank Dardani, president of the Ozone-Tudor Civic Association, said after the meeting he felt the proposed rules would slow or stop the conversion of single family homes into two-family residences because of the requirement that homeowners provide additional parking spaces on the property.

According to DCP, the primary benefits of the proposed amendment in the CB 10 district are in the tighter planting area requirements, since many Queens neighborhoods are prone to flooding and natural ground absorbs water that pools on pavement. Requiring parking for additional units created in existing buildings in some low-density districts such as Howard Beach, Ozone Park, South Ozone Park and Lindenwood is also a priority.

For the Community Board 9 area, the amendment would benefit one- and two-family zones, such as those established as part of the city’s 2006 Kew Gardens-Richmond Hill rezoning, the department said.

Mary Ann Carey, district manager of CB 9, said the board is concerned about the paving over of front lawns in the area. “There’s no green space,” Carey said.

The board is considering a resolution pressing City Planning to go further, stating, “We urge City Planning to look again at what their regulations do not accomplish. It is not just our streetscapes that are at risk. The proliferation of uncontrolled lawn pave overs, with resultant flooding of sewers and pollution of drinking water, threatens our habitability.”

Carey said she expected the resolution to be passed by the board.

After the community boards’ review of the proposed amendment it will go to the borough president, the city Planning Commission and the City Council, which can modify the rules before approving or rejecting them.