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CB18 looking to upzone Marine Park

Breaking the law: Locals are still fighting this zone-busting development on Kimball Street.
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Marine Parkers are torn over a proposal to rezone the neighborhood to pave the way for taller residential buildings in a surrender to zone-busting developers who are already building bigger than allowed.

Community Board 18 is urging the city to look at changing the age-old zoning of Marine Park and Mill Island because new families moving into the nabes can no longer cram all of their youngsters into the small homes that were built decades ago, said the board’s district manager during a meeting on Oct. 18.

“It’s antiquated. We were after them, city planning, to do something about rezoning Marine Park to give it a little bit more of the use,” said Dottie Turano. “They are little houses, they were little one-family houses, big back yards, big side yards, and room for growth.”

Currently, Marine Park — which is generally bounded by the neighborhood’s eponymous park, Kings Highway to the north, and Gerritsen and Flatbush Avenues on either side — boasts row houses that don’t breach more than three stories. And in parts of Mill Island, which is the peninsula part in Mill Basin, homes can’t go higher than two stories, according to city zoning maps.

But civic leaders were quick to defend the neighborhood’s single-family homes and suburban feel, and pointed out the dangers of upzoning, fearing that the community’s infrastructure and schools wouldn’t be able to handle an increase of people, traffic, and construction, said the local civic group’s head honcho.

“They are adequate. Many of our first immigrants came here and raised families that had an average of three to seven children in these homes,” said Bob Tracey, president of the Marine Park Civic Association. “It starts out innocently and then it expands into something that you have no control over. The infrastructure is not built for everything that’s coming in here.”

Locals have recently been fighting an uptick of illegal construction and developers who are sneakily erecting homes that already violate zoning laws, but some local leaders are saying that at this point, it may be better to just give up and make it legal for them, said CB18 chairman Sol Needle.

“What’s happening in my community, without the rezoning, they are doing it anyway, that’s the problem,” said Needle, who is also the president of the Mill Island Civic Association.

Turano pegged the need to rezone on the influx of large Orthodox families moving into the community, who seemingly have no choice but to either break the law or pick up and move elsewhere. “There are a lot of Orthodox families moving in there, and they are stopping because they are limited by how much they can do legally,” she said.

The board submitted the rezoning proposal in its annual expense budget to the city’s Office of Management and Budget and Department of City Planning by Oct. 31.

The agencies will review it and meet with the community as necessary, said a spokesman for the planning department.

If the budget item is approved, the application would then go through the full Uniform Land Use Review Procedure. CB18 would weigh in again with a non-binding vote on whether to approve the proposal, but that vote will only be advisory. Regardless of the board’s vote at the point, the proposal would then go to Borough President Adams, then to the City Planning Commission for approval, a then a vote in the city Council, and then on to Mayor DeBlasio.

Councilman Alan Maisel (D–Marine Park) — whose vote will likely determine whether the proposal passes the Council — said he would follow the lead of whet he heard from the community, but suggested he sympathized with the skeptics.

“It depends on how people in the community felt, especially the Marine Park Civic Association,” he said. “I would have to know impact. I would not want something to be overbuilt and get overly crowded. I would want to know impact and who would support. If people want it, that’s fine.”

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at jcuba@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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