In the wake of a seeming population boom, I have requested that the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) consider creating a single-family rowhouse zoning designation in the neighborhoods of Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth, Middle Village, Woodside and Woodhaven.
These neighborhoods each have their own brand of small-town allure, some with beautiful architecture dating back to the early 19th century. To make this small-town feel within the world's greatest city, planners employed the rowhouse as a way to create individual homes in a condensed space. In 2009, the community asked then-Council Member Elizabeth Crowley to fight for the designation, but she didn't take action until the 2017 election. When I won her seat, I knew I had to make downzoning a priority.
I wrote a letter to Marisa Lago, director of DCP, in March, requesting a zoning text amendment that would both create a downzone and prevent multi-family housing conversions through the establishment of a single family rowhouse zoning designation. In a response letter, Lago wrote that DCP does not intend to take such action at this time as its priority is to focus resources on addressing the City's pressing affordable housing and social equity needs.
City planning claims they do not have a zoning category at this time that protects one-story rowhouses, and that they did not focus on them because there is not much that can presently be done with them by a builder. However, I know this is not the case. There have been several instances where an owner of an attached rowhouse has built an additional floor on top or demolished an attached home in the middle of a block to rebuild a taller house, the result of which is a total ruination of the streetscape. Others have added a walk-in unit below ground by closing off their garages.
I intend to continue fighting for this designation. Overpopulation will ultimately lower the quality of life for those within this district and protecting single-family homes is the key to preserving it.
These conversions are not only changing the character of the community, they also place undue strain on the neighborhood's infrastructure, create mass amounts of traffic in a district already heavily congested thanks to the lack of public transportation options, and impede the ability to offer admission to area schools.
District 24 schools are already overcrowded. Right now, the schools are 4,702 students over capacity and that's without the construction of additional residences along Queens Boulevard. I can't fathom how many unfunded seats there could be if the population continues to grow.
A single-family rowhouse zoning designation is paramount to protecting the integrity of our neighborhoods and our infrastructure.
**The views expressed in this column represent only those of the author and not the board or membership of the Juniper Park Civic Association.