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Squeeze Zoning Horror

Bronx Times

Here we go again.

Another Pelham Bay house may literally be walled in by another developer.

And it all looks perfectly legal.

This latest case of squeeze development, at 1816 Edison Avenue, involves construction of a four-story apartment building that will be built with about six to 12 inches of space away from the wall of a private house at 1820 Edison Avenue.

The developer, Paul Durgaj, confirmed the construction plan in a phone interview.

Because of the area’s R-7 zoning, Durgaj can build right up to the property line.

Neighboring homeowner Giovanni Franco Osso said that as many as five windows on one side of his home may now face a brick wall.

“He never approached me and he never told me how close it was going to be,” said Osso, adding that he may now have to relocate two exhaust vents on the side of his home facing the new building.

Osso said he understands that Durgaj made an investment, but he would like the developer to take the situation into account. He also said that there is already much available rental housing on his block.

Local Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who first learned of the up-against-the-wall construction plan, contacted the city Department of Buildings to see what could be done.

The developer’s application was initially rejected because it did not have enough on-site parking, which is something that Vacca was told will be corrected.

Vacca tried to deal with a similar situation earlier this year at 3529 Bruckner Blvd., where another developer built a 14-unit apartment building one foot away from the Justiniano family home next door, blocking off 10 windows in their home, and creating difficulties in making repairs on that side of the house, according to Patty Justiniano, one of the homeowners.

Vacca said he called Durgaj and urged him to take another look at his plans so that the development is not built “lot-line to lot-line,” meaning right on the property line.

“I pleaded with the owner not to do this,” said Vacca. “I told him about what happened on Bruckner Blvd., which he appeared to know. I said to him that there were alternatives and I asked him to look at the application again.”

But the situation has led Vacca to call for the downzoning of R-6 and R-7 zones in the Pelham Bay section, specifically so that no lot-line to lot-line development is allowed, with windows and ventilation systems walled in.

“It seems that we have a trend here,” he said. “I really think that at this point, because of the abuse of the zoning, the R-6 and R-7 zones in Pelham Bay need to be converted” into lower-density zones.

Vacca said he has already contacted the City Planning Commission, requesting the zoning change.

Durgaj said that he had heard that other people may have had zoning problems in Pelham Bay, but that he has already worked to make sure that there is on-site parking, and that it is common practice in the Bronx to build on property lines.

“We buy the properties based on the zoning,” he said. “We’ve built on property lines all over the Bronx...everywhere we built on property lines and no one complains. I know sometimes they affect some windows or some things, but that is the zoning. When I bought it, I bought it for R-7 zoning.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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