Everyone knows by now that the Walgreens application for a variance in Middle Village was voted down resoundingly by CB5 at their August 2005 meeting. Not one 'yes' vote was registered.
Despite this unanimous defeat, the developer, John Genovese of the Genovese drug store family, is going forward with their application to the Board of Standards and Appeals.
While this doesn't surprise us, it does give you a sense of the indifference applicants have towards local civic and community board opinions. It also suggests a confidence they seem to have in an ultimate approval from the BSA.
As the variance application navigates through the city process it is not unusual for a totally defeated application at the community board and civic level to be ultimately approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals.
The Board, composed of five mayoral appointees serving six-year terms, must include an architect, an engineer and a planner. They vote against local opposition over 90% of the time. This certainly demonstrates a flawed system and attempts to rein the BSA in by giving the City Council the ultimate right to veto their decisions, have been thwarted.
The Walgreens application for a variance, with fewer parking spaces, no loading dock and additional square footage than permitted under existing zoning, is simply not an acceptable alternative. The members of the Juniper Park Civic Association voted unanimously against this at their Town Meeting in June. Our community, along with many other areas, is currently in the throes of downzoning parts of the neighborhood and in keeping with that mindset, it makes no sense granting a variance for a large, 24-hour drug store, with fewer parking spaces and no loading dock, directly across the street from Artis Drugs, a very successful, well regarded drug store in Middle Village for many years.
The fact that the applicant is determined to put this oversized (11,000 square feet) drug store on the site and is pursuing the variance to the BSA means that, sadly, using the past as prologue, they could very well be successful.
At the moment, the site on 80th Street and Eliot Avenue in Middle Village, is in deplorable condition and one could conclude that anything has to be better. However, anything? can be just as noxious as the present condition. That is why we in the JPCA are nervous about future developments at the site.