Board fighting squeeze play zoning

Board fighting squeeze play zoning|Board fighting squeeze play zoning|Board fighting squeeze play zoning
A apartment building project at Buhre and Jarvis avenues abuts a neighboring private home, with scaffolding on the private home’s property.
Photo courtesy of Patty Justiniano

An east Bronx community board is looking to stop thisclose zoning as new Mayor de Blasio’s housing policy takes shape.

Community Board 10 is in preliminary discussions to stop or limit “lot-line to lot-line” building west of the Bruckner Expressway, with developers putting up buildings inches away from next door private homes.

Things are up in the air right now at the Department of City Planning, with a new commissioner yet to be selected as of press time. But CB 10 had a preliminary meeting with DCP last year that seemed to show the agency receptive to zoning changes that would discourage the practice.

“This is currently a conceptual plan that the board will pursue with the Department of City Planning,” said CB 10 district manager Kenneth Kearns. “It is not about a particular site, but rather, about sites in the area west of the Bruckner Expressway that could potentially be exposed to lot-line to lot-line development.”

Three cases

The board’s move comes on the heels of three cases in rapid succession last year in Pelham Bay.

Zoning there allows developers to construct apartment buildings within a foot or less of private homes, causing windows and ventilation systems to be walled off, and forcing repairs and alterations that cost the neighboring homeowners, not developers.

Any new proposal would mostly affect Pelham Bay and possibly also Zerega, which were not that impacted by local downzoning in the last decade.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca submitted his own proposal to DCP about six months ago that would restrict building on lot-lines in R-6 and R-7 zones.

“The DCP Bronx office has my proposal,” said Vacca. “This is something they are already studying, however it is taking them a long time…this will be high on my agenda and I want to sit down with the new commissioner and explain the proposal and the ramifications that lot-line to lot-line has on residential locations.”

Lot-line to lot-line buildng on Edison Avenue.
courtesy of Patty Justiniano

Squeeze play

Under Vacca’s plan, the distances required from the property line required under R-5 would apply to higher density R-6 and R-7 zones.

Kearns cited the example of a building at 3529 Bruckner Blvd., built about a foot from Patty Justinano’s private home next door at 3525 Bruckner Blvd., as a example of building that violates the spirt of the Citywide Zoning Resolution and its amendments, which go all the way back to 1916.

He pointed out that even in developments where there are very large buildings, such as in Co-op City or Parkchester, the buildings themselves are set back from the street and there is green space between the sidewalk and the entrances. This can be attributed to the Citywide Zoning Resolution, he said.

Justiniano, who had 10 windows on the side of her home effectively walled in by the neighboring development, said she will assist CB 10’s effort in any way possible.

“This issue has been going on for about six or seven years,” she said, citing an example in Waterbury-LaSalle on Gifford Avenue, actually in an R-4 zone, where the lot-line to lot-line loopholes became evident.

Making sense

Waterbury-LaSalle Community Association board member Mary Jane Musano, who took part in last year’s Bronx DCP meeting, said that the agency took a long time to respond, but when it finally did months later, the response was favorable.

She said that to people in her community, rules that allow lot-line to lot-line building do not make sense.

Neither do zoning regulations that sometimes allow developers to waive parking space requirements.

Musano said the WLCA and concerned citizens have now hired an architect to review various building projects in the area after Vacca found many mistakes last year on about seven projects. She believes that even more mistakes are likely to be found.

3525 and 3529 Bruckner Blvd. side by side.
courtesy of Patty Justiniano

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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