The glowing description of the development at 77-39 Vleigh Place given last week by developer Avi Matatov was not shared by some of the site’s neighbors, who expressed concern for congestion in Kew Gardens Hills. “It is a beautiful development, but it is much too big,” said Stan Norwalk, who lives five blocks from the construction site. “I am worried about people being able to get to their places.”
On the construction fence for the project, a rendering shows a two-story commercial structure taking up the block where a row of single-story small businesses burned down in 2016. On the website of the architect, the project shows a seven-story mixed-use tower that has not secured final approval from the city.
“The picture is bigger than Vleigh Place. Queens is overcrowded and so is the city. We have too many people and we cannot build much more,” said Alan Sherman. “Upstate cities are dying to have more people move in. There should be incentives for companies to move upstate.”
Expressing concerns about parking and traffic congestion, Sherman fears that Kew Gardens Hills would follow Forest Hills as single-family homes and one-story shops are replaced by high-rises. “I’ve testified before Community Board 6 about the new towers rising in Forest Hills. Who is to say that Main Street will not have high-rises after a tower on Vleigh Place is approved?”
In the past year, new construction along Queens Boulevard includes the site of what used to be the Parkside Memorial Chapels in Forest Hills and the Key Food block at Yellowstone Boulevard. Nearby, Forest Hills Jewish Center announced its intention to have its building knocked down in favor of residential development, and this week the Reform Temple of Forest Hills announced plans to do likewise.
Although the developer noted that the number of parking spaces provided by the building exceeds the minimum amount required by law, it would not accommodate every unit, assuming that each household would have a car, if not two cars. “I live on Vleigh Place, and I see how difficult it is to park for postal workers and teachers at nearby schools,” said Jennifer Meltzer. “I would like to see a compromise reached.”
Having previously lived in Forest Hills, Meltzer noted the Forest Hills Co-op Houses on 108th Street, where the city sought to build public housing in 1968. A compromise struck by then-attorney Mario Cuomo reduced the project in size and reserved a sizable percentage of the apartments for the elderly. “Seems that progressives would like to up-zone the entire city until there are no single-family homes left,” she said.
A hearing on the construction project at 77-39 Vleigh Place will take place virtually on Wednesday, March 23, at Community Board 8. For more information, contact the Community Board at 718-264-7895.
By Sergey Kadinsky