John Young, director of City Planning's Queens Office, said the rezoning would safeguard the character of the three neighborhoods from out-of-context overdevelopment while allowing for future commercial growth.
"The benefit for everyone," Young said, once the zoning changes go through, "is that you can more clearly understand what should be happening [on a given] lot."
In total, said city planner Tom Smith, the rezone will affect approximately 9,000 lots across the three Western Queens neighborhoods. If approved, the ambitious rezone would be the latest in a series of rezoning resolutions passed by City Council in this part of Queens.
"It's a very complex rezoning area," Smith said.
For planning purposes, the city has divided the plan into four sections covering Maspeth, Middle Village, Eastern Glendale, and Western Glendale.
The largest would rezone a 125-block section of Maspeth surrounding Mount Olivet Cemetery, bounded roughly by the Queens Midtown Expressway to the North and 59th Street to the west, Smith said. This area would be zoned predominantly R4A, R4B and R4-1 allowing for one and two-story family homes. Busier sections, along Flushing and Grand avenues, would be given R5B status to allow for slightly bigger buildings.
In Middle Village, plans call for the rezoning of a 65-block area bounded by Queens Midtown Expressway to the north, Woodhaven Boulevard to the East, and Juniper Valley Park and St. John's Cemetery to the south. This area would be zoned primarily to protect residential housing but would, like in Maspeth, alter existing commercial overlays to allow for business development.
In Western Glendale, Smith said, the city has proposed rezoning a 90-block area bounded by 70th Avenue to the north, Mt. Carmel and Cypress Hills cemeteries to the east, and the rail line to the west. Here the plan calls for a ban on large-scale, out-of-context residential development, with a provision for three- to four-story buildings with ground-floor retail shops along the commercial corridor of Myrtle Avenue.
Likewise, in Eastern Glendale, a 20-block section bounded by Cooper Avenue to the north, Woodhaven Boulevard to the east, and the rail line to the south, residential development would be controlled, while commercial growth would be encouraged along some major business avenues.
In an appearance at the public hearing, Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley said she would work with City Planning to make sure the rezone reaches City Council as soon as possible.
"I'm hoping to get it to the City Council at the beginning of the summer. We're moving at a fast pace," said Crowley, who added, for the first time publicly, that there are small sections in the overall plan she would have liked to have seen downzoned even further. "We all know how important it is to get this resolution passed."
Community Board 5 will vote on the plan May 13, after which it will go before the Borough President's office. If approved there, it moves to the City Planning Commission before being voted on by the City Council.