State Senator Tony Avella is calling for the Department of Buildings to issue a stop-work order for the pre-K and day care because of health and fire safety concerns, as well as possibly violating existing zoning laws.
“We need a day care center in the neighborhood, we want a day care center in the neighborhood,” said Avella. “But it must be done safely and legally.”
Happy Dragon is on the corner of Bayside Avenue and 146th Street in what used to be a private residence. It has housed a day care facility since 2003 after being purchased by operator Dula Man.
Among the issues with the expansion, first brought to light by nearby resident and urban planner Paul Graziano, include expanding the cay care center into the cellar and mixing uses on the same floor.
There is a difference between a basement and a cellar, noted Graziano. If the bottom floor is at or above 50 percent ground level, it is legal to use the space for educational uses because there will likely be a door to get outside in the event of on emergency.
However, if the floor is more than 50 percent below ground level, it is considered a cellar, which makes it illegal to use the space for educational purposes because of health and fire concerns.
“This is setting up a death trap for these kids,” said Graziano.
The expansion would also include a mixing of uses on the same floors.
“The third and part of the second floor would be used for residential purposes, and the other part of the second floor as well as the first would be used for education purposes,” explained Graziano.
According to the zoning code, it is prohibited to mix uses on the same floor. If the home is being used for both residential and commercial purposes, they would have to be separated.
There is also a new proposed curb cut for the property to create a circle driveway around the building that would include four parking spots in a current play place for the children, which would be moved
Avella and Graziano are concerned the renovations will add to the busy traffic in the area, creating the potential for more accidents.
Avella has also written to the Department of Transportation, Parks Department and FDNY to alert them to the sitaution, but has not received a response yet.
“The development plan is rife with issues, including the use of the second floor for both residential and commercial uses,” added Avella. “Overall, it is surprising that a plan riddled with issues ever received the Department of Buildings’ stamp of approval, and the agency needs to immediately rectify their mistake by issuing a stop-work order.”