CB5 approves O’Neill’s expansion, pet admission center
by Benjamin Fang
May 22, 2018 | 4768 views | 0 0 comments | 236 236 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Community Board 5 gave the green light last week to a pair of land use projects in Middle Village and Maspeth.

The board first voted in favor of an expanded pet admission center on 69th Street. The intake center will be run by Animal Care Centers of New York City, a nonprofit contracted by the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

ACC’s current Queens location in Rego Park is too small, officials told the board last month. With a new 1,400-square-foot site in Middle Village, ACC would add a food pantry, vaccine clinic, room for medical treatments, and space for other services.

CB5 members approved the relocation, with the caveat that they want ACC to look into acquiring more parking spots. The site only has two parking spots available for the public.

The second, and more controversial, approval was for the expansion of O’Neill’s Restaurant in Maspeth. The longtime community staple is seeking to add a partial second floor for a 140-seat banquet hall.

At last month’s board meeting, local residents spoke overwhelmingly in favor of the expansion, praising O’Neill’s commitment to the Maspeth community and charitable causes.

But a large group of residents also oppose the move, citing concerns of parking, congestion and possible overdevelopment in the neighborhood.

Earlier this month, at the board’s Land Use Committee meeting, nearly a dozen neighbors voiced their worries about the expansion. Many of the same opponents attended last week’s board meeting.

Christine Isherwood, a resident of 54th Avenue and 66th Street, collected more than 200 signatures on a petition against the expansion.

She said not only would parking be worse, but more people at O’Neill’s would mean more noise, public intoxication and urination, and other quality-of-life issues for residents.

She argued that during the few years O’Neill’s was rebuilding from a devastating fire, parking was actually easier to find.

“Our neighborhood is so congested already,” she said. “A catering hall does not belong in a neighborhood.”

Proponents of the change countered that parking is bad everywhere, not just in Maspeth. Resident Adriana Carrasco said O’Neill’s shouldn’t get all of the blame for the neighborhood’s parking problems.

“To me, O’Neill’s progressing progresses the neighborhood,” she said, “because it’s a family restaurant.”

Tom McBride, who lives on 53rd Drive, argued that many families rent out their garages to commercial businesses, worsening the parking and congestion.

“We should look at ourselves,” he said. “Everyone in our community, on both sides of the street, is making profit.”

To address the parking and overdevelopment fears, O’Neill’s team produced letters from a half-dozen local businesses and institutions that agreed to let the restaurant use their parking lots for valet parking.

The Martin Luther School on Maspeth Avenue and Pat’s Service Station on Rust Street were among the entities that agreed.

O’Neill’s also agreed to sign a “restrictive declaration” against the property to ensure that no residential development could ever be built on the lot.

The board voted 32-8 in favor of the expansion.

A representative from the Department of City Planning also presented a proposal by the city to create a special permit for hotels to be built in M-1 zones, which are designated for light manufacturing.

Joy Chen, a city planner with DCP, said as tourism continues to grow in New York City, the number of hotel rooms are keeping pace. There are 600 hotels and 116,000 total hotel rooms in the city, with an additional 24,000 under construction.

Although only 13 percent of existing hotel rooms are in M-1 zones, roughly 30 percent of hotel rooms under construction citywide are in zones meant for industrial activity.

“We are concerned about these issues in terms of hotel development and balanced neighborhood growth,” Chen said, “which is why we are taking action on this issue now.”

Chen said the M1 zoning “works well” for hotels, which is why so many developers have opted to build them there. They can build taller buildings on small lots with fewer height and setback regulations.

There are also fewer parking and loading requirements for hotels in M-1 district.

But the problem is that hotel developments in industrial spaces create conflicts. Issues like noise, truck traffic, pollution and other nuisances create problems for both hotel occupants and light manufacturing companies.

Under the city’s proposal, DCP would create a new special permit for developers who want to build hotels, motels or tourist cabins in M-1 zones.

Each application would have to go through the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP), which would require public hearings from the community board, borough president and, ultimately, approval from the City Council.

“A case-by-case, site-specific review process would ensure that hotels are built only on appropriate sites,” Chen said, “minimizing conflicts in industrial areas and achieving a balanced mix of uses in these M-1 districts.”

CB5 members, however, raised concerns about transient hotels that they fear could be turned into homeless shelters. Chair Vincent Arcuri said the proposal also wouldn’t limit hotels from being built in commercial zones.

The Land Use Committee will discuss the proposal further. The Queens Borough Board will vote on the issue at its June 11th meeting at Borough Hall.
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