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Push for zoning laws for walled-in houses

Bronx Times

It won’t help a family left up against a wall by a greedy developer.

But a Bronx elected official is calling for a zoning change that will keep other developers from leaving homeowners in similar straights.

City Councilman Jimmy Vacca is asking the City Planning Commission to amend local zoning that would bar developers from building right up to the side of homes with windows.

“Something has got to be done,” said Vacca of the zoning. “I wanted to start a zoning review and get recommendations.”

Pelham Bay’s Justiniano family is literally up against the wall with a new next-door apartment building.

One side of Patty and Fernando Justiniano’s home at 3525 Bruckner Blvd. is practically being walled in by developer Anton Tinaj, leaving about a foot of space between a new 14-unit apartment building and 10 windows on the side of their home. It used to face a single family home on a double lot.

Under current R7-1 zoning rules, next door buildings may be built all the way to the property line.

Vacca, who was instrumental in pushing the R7-1 zoning to stop overdevelopment, is calling for a review of R-3 to R-7 zones.

There currently are side yard requirements for most zoning below R-3, which is lower density zoning.

Citing the construction at 3529 Bruckner Blvd., Vacca expressed his concerns in a Jan. 22 letter to the planning commission about “the right that many builders have to build lot line to lot line, and the impact it has on adjacent homeowners.”

“A long-time homeowner now has her windows facing a brick wall, where she previously had open space,” stated Vacca. “Her circumstances totally changed based on one home being demolished and a new multiple-family home being built right against her property.”

Vacca told the Bronx Times Reporter that he flagged the plan at 3529 Bruckner Blvd. in 2012, forcing the developer to meet the newer zoning regulations. He had Tinaj cut the number of units from 16 to 14 and had seven on-site parking spaces added.

Patty Justiniano welcomed the zoning amendment push by Vacca so that no other homeowners ever have to go through what she and her husband are going through.

Meanwhile, they are pursuing other possible options.

Ideally, she said, she would like to see the developer move the building over a foot so that she can get sunlight in her windows and be able to maintain one side of her home.

“It is just disheartening...and I am not going to let it rest,” she said. “We bought a single detached home in the neighborhood to live in single detached home.”

She was glad for media coverage, starting with the Bronx Times Reporter, which broke the story Jan. 10. It was quickly picked up regionally in print, television and radio, and nationally on-line.

“Obviously I am not just the only person who thinks it is an issue, that’s for sure,” said Justiniano. “It is a great thing, but it is a matter of what is going to be able to be done about this.”

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

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