Local lawmakers call attention to ‘destruction’ of Ridgewood in letter to the mayor
This article originally appeared on Queens.com and was written by Ryan Kelley
Two elected officials representing Queens have joined Community Board 5 and concerned local residents in the fight against a controversial new housing development in Ridgewood.
Assembly Members Catherine Nolan and Mike Miller took their complaints straight to the top on July 13 when they sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio to draw his attention to 1664 Woodbine St., where construction is about to begin. Listed among the nearly 3,000 Ridgewood structures on the National and State Registers of Historic Places, the building is set for a vertical expansion that could “speed up the potential for additional high-rise developments” in the neighborhood, the letter stated.
More importantly to the lawmakers’ constituents, however, is the feeling that such developments are “destroying the integrity and character of the block,” according to the letter.
“This would forever alter the neighborhood’s identity and negatively affect the quality of life for all of Ridgewood and Western Queens residents,” Nolan and Miller wrote. “Ridgewood is made up of medium to low-rise buildings and should not be transformed into a dense, high-rise community.”
The letter cites the efforts of Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District Executive Director Ted Renz and Ridgewood Property Owners and Civic Association President Paul Kerzner, who are also members of Board 5 who have led the charge against the building.
On July 9, the two sent a letter of their own to the Department of City Planning requesting a moratorium be placed on the property and any others where Department of Buildings (DOB) approval is required or there is intent to add height and additional apartments to existing buildings until talks about zoning changes have finished.
Two days later, Board 5 would pass a resolution at its July 11 meeting calling for such a moratorium as well.
Renz, Kerzner and the community board are seeking a rezoning in the area that would make the maximum building height 40 feet, which is the approximate height of the attached brick homes on the block. On top of that, Renz told QNS that if the city had acted on his requests over the past decade to make all of Ridgewood’s historic districts official New York City Landmarks, things would be much different today.
“Had that been in place, this could not have been done,” Renz said. “They could not have touched the buildings, period.”
Nolan and Miller expressed their full support for the moratorium in their letter to the mayor, and they called upon his office to take action in supporting the community.
“Any approval of this unsafe, out-of-context destruction of our community would be wrong and we would urge your agency to assist us in stopping this destruction,” the letter states.
Also offering his support to the community board’s efforts is Councilman Robert Holden, even though the property is technically just outside of his district. Holden has been an advocate for changing zoning laws to protect one-family row houses in nearby Middle Village, and he told QNS that excess development in the area goes even farther than altering the community’s character.
“As we get more and more up-zoning and people taking existing housing stock and building larger structures, that’s putting a strain on the local infrastructure,” Holden said. “Everybody wants to keep neighborhood the way it is, the way it was meant to be designed.”
Holden said he would also write to the Department of City Planning in support of the moratorium.
If the construction goes through unimpeded, the current three-story building with six units will be expanded to have four stories and a penthouse with a total of 12 units, DOB records show. With a new height of 54 feet, the building will be approximately 15 feet taller than any other building on the block.
The only other building that will come close to matching its height is another vertical expansion directly behind it at 1663 Madison St. That building is being converted into a four-story, seven-unit home, and since construction is already underway, the community board can’t stop it.
Records from the Office of the City Register show that the Woodbine Street building was sold in 2015 for $1,420,325. The owners, as listed on the ‘work in progress’ sign at the site, are Slj Management of 199 Lee Ave. in Brooklyn.
According to a report from The Real Deal, 199 Lee Ave. is a building that has hundreds of mailboxes used by hundreds of landlords to collect rent checks and “help cloak the identities of some of the city’s most mysterious property owners.”
After multiple attempts to reach Slj Management, the group did not provide any comment to QNS.
Photo credit: Dean Moses