The rezoning of Briarwood was approved on February 27, 2008, and is currently in effect. Briarwood is a neighborhood in Central Queens consisting of 39 blocks abutted by Parsons Boulevard to the east, Queens Boulevard and the Van Wyck Expressway to the west, Grand Central Parkway to the north, and Hillside Avenue to the south.
The rezoning was initiated by the Department of City Planning (DCP) on October 1st, 2007. The DCP response to neighborhood concerns that the previous zoning allowed for building types that threatened the neighborhood’s distinct character. The Briarwood Civic Association consulted with the DCP to make sure the rezoning looked more closely at the greater neighborhood context than the 1996 zoning.
The 1996 zoning allowed for primarily one- and two-family detached houses and some three-story multi-family apartments where greater density is appropriate, but at a moderate scale. While a portion of the neighborhood continues to be zoned R6A for taller, denser multi-family residential buildings, it is a significantly smaller portion than what was previously considered appropriate.
There are existing areas, which allow for mixed-use and commercial development, which were not rezoned due to their inherently commercial nature and location near major roadways. The idea was that any changes that have been made were done in a way to reflect the existing building types in each area to maintain the fabric of the neighborhood. Many in the community believed that the zoning established in 1996 endangered this fabric. The Department of City Planning certified the rezoning application and subsequently sent it on to Community Board 8 for their review.
The Department of City Planning presented a rezoning proposal for the Queen’s neighborhood of Briarwood to Community Board 8’s land use committee at a public hearing. The committee unanimously passed the proposal, which was widely approved by both the Community Board and the community.
Community groups such as the Briarwood Civic Association were involved since the start of the process doing research and proposed changes to be included in the rezoning. Based on the level of community involvement, there was little contention over this rezoning. Community Board 8, the Queen’s Borough President’s office, and the City Planning Commission all approved the rezoning, and City Council approved all changes as proposed.
Since 2007, there has been considerable debate in the community regarding the construction of a St. John’s University dormitory. There has been vocal community opposition to the construction of the dorm, that will be located in predominately residential area. The six-story dorm takes advantage of a zoning loophole for community facilities to rise about 20 feet above the maximum allowable height.