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Animal clinic in Middle Village seeks rezoning

Dr. Thomas seeks to house staff above clinic

By Jessica Meditz
[email protected]

Known for its cornerside navy blue awning and roof with a white picket fence and pet statues, the Animal Clinic of Queens is seeking a makeover.

The clinic, located at 78-46 Metropolitan Avenue in Middle Village and owned by Dr. Robert Thomas, is slated to undergo a rezoning map amendment, involving the enlargement of the current one-story building with the addition of two stories and two dwelling units.

This rezoning would change the property from an R5 Zoning District to an R5D/C2-3 Zoning District, and will also bring the existing ground floor legal non-conforming Use Group 6 Veterinary Medicine Office use into conformance.

Land use and zoning attorney Sheldon Lobel is handling the case, and his son, Richard Lobel, presented the case for the record at last month’s Community Board 5 meeting.

“Many times, Dr. Thomas and his staff give full time care, including overnight care, to animals. This would allow for convenient 24-hour access to the facility,” Lobel said during the presentation.

The neighboring building, 78-44 Metropolitan Avenue, is also included in this rezoning.

Lobel said that nothing would change pursuant to that property, and it would merely become complying and conforming to city standards.

Thomas’ intention with this proposed rezoning is to allow clinic staff to live above their workplace, as well as maintain the presence of the property in the community.

He added that the two additional stories would be set back roughly 40-feet and 55-feet from Metropolitan Avenue as well as from 79th Street on the north side, meaning they would not change the street view too drastically.

“In short, Dr. Thomas has been a valued member of the community and has provided these services for over 30 years, so this would be a huge benefit to him,” Lobel continued. “I know it’s something that he’s attempted for years in the past, and so this is kind of an opportunity which has presented itself.”

Thomas did not respond to a request for comment as of press time, but he did speak at the CB5 Zoning and Land Use meeting, which was open to the public.

In order for the proposal to be approved and for construction to commence, the plan must be approved by a series of entities as part of the land use review process.

Prior to reaching CB5, seeking their recommendation, the proposal was screened by the Queens City Planning Department.

It will then go to the Department of City Planning, City Planning Commission and the City Council.

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards will also have the opportunity to comment.

Walter Sanchez, chair of CB5’s Land Use Committee, noted that the committee and ultimately the full board voted in Thomas’ favor. “The main reason for our request that the city approve the application is that the proposal is not out of character for the next-door buildings or the neighborhood. Dr. Thomas spoke to the adjacent building owners about the project, and he’s been a really good neighbor for the last few decades,” Sanchez said. “We think it looks like a really good improvement to the property, and to us, the setback of the second and third floor shows he cares about his neighbors.”

If all goes according to plan, it is estimated that construction for this rezoning would start in the spring of 2023.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Walter Sanchez is the publisher of BQE Media (Queens Ledger). His recent remarks were made in his capacity as chairman of CB 5’s Land Use Committee.

Burrito BLVD to open Astoria location

Two years ago, Robert Matos opened up Burrito Blvd at 72-64 Metropolitan Ave. in Middle Village, having no prior experience in the food industry.
Matos, who worked in real estate at the time, wanted to try something new career-wise, and saw promise in the Mexican food industry by way of his longtime friend Joe Vetrano, who owns the Burrito Blvd location in Mineola.

“He told me it was the best thing he ever did, and so that stuck in my head,” Matos said.

“Joe was in the process of franchising Burrito Blvd, and we became business partners. Middle Village quickly took off,” he continued. “People in the community would tell me that this is exactly what was needed, and I get compliments on my staff all the time. So that early response made me feel good and reassured that I’m not crazy and that this was going to work.”

Because both Burrito Blvd locations have seen such success, Matos and Vetrano decided to open a third location at 36-20 30th Ave. in Astoria together.

The grand opening will take place on Sat., April 23 from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., and will offer $2 burrito, bowl and taco specials all day.

“Astoria is a great area because it’s so busy; everybody walks or takes public transportation. It’s a great corner spot on 30th Ave., which happens to be one of the busiest streets in Astoria. It was a great opportunity,” Matos said.

He added that the Astoria location will be quite different from the Middle Village one because it will be more of a grab-and-go style store, as opposed to a large indoor dining space.

Similar to the Middle Village store, the Astoria location will feature mural artwork by an artist who goes by the name Mike.A.

But the main thing Matos takes pride in when it comes to running his business is getting to engage with the community and provide them with quality food products.

“It feels good to have a place where I get kids that come from the park to hang out and bring their friends. It’s the best feeling to know people are satisfied with what you’re doing,” Matos said.

“It’s so great to serve my community and I’m so thankful for their support,” he continued. “I think opening day in Astoria will be a big success, just like it was for Middle Village.”

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