The owner of the property at the corner of 215th Street and 15th Avenue, just east of Bell Boulevard, also plans to put a daycare center on the first floor.
But residents argue the size of the project is out of character with the rest of the neighborhood of predominately one- and two-family homes, and that a daycare center would cause a traffic and safety nightmare on the one-way residential street.
“This sends a clear message to the owner that we will continue to fight to prevent it from happening,” said Matthew Silverstein, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance.
State Senator Tony Avella said he spoke with the owner the day before the rally and urged him to reconsider the project.
“If you're really part of this community, then do the right thing,” he said. “You have the ability to make a nice profit and build some nice homes.”
Avella said that, at the very least, he urged the owner to reconsider the daycare center.
“You are going to have people blocking traffic all the time,” said the state senator, who said he has seen firsthand the exact same issue with a new daycare center in Whitestone.
Avella conceded that the neighborhood could use a daycare center, but that it should be located in a commercial area with ample parking and space for dropping off and picking up kids, not nestled in among homes.
The neighborhood is zoned R-5, which means the developer can proceed as of right without any special permits or allowances.
“Just because you can do something legally does not mean that it is the right thing to do,” said Assemblyman Ed Braunstein.
Braunstein argued the development would not only affect the quality of life in the neighborhood, but also set a “dangerous precedent” for future development in the area.
He told the crowd he was working with other elected officials in the area to pressure the city to rezone Bay Terrace.
“We must continue an aggressive effort to downzone Bay Terrace to prohibit the construction of developments like this in the future,” he said.
The plans also call for an underground parking garage, but Avella was skeptical that it would ever be part of the finished project, further exacerbating traffic and parking issues.
The property used to have two two-family homes on it, but they were torn down earlier this year. There is currently a stop-work order on the property because an asbestos report wasn't filed with the Department of Environmental Protection.
Avella urged residents to contact all of the elected officials in the area and write letters to the city, as well as report any suspicious activity at the site. He said if the developer doesn't make changes, the local community could sue to stall the project until the area can be downzoned.
“We will hold you up until we get the rezoning through, and then you'll be out of luck,” he said.
“This is a great first effort,” Avella added. “But this is just the beginning of the fight."