The empty lot on 6025 Boulevard East in West New York is nondescript and silent. So silent, in fact, that one almost doesn’t notice the bitter zoning dispute that has emerged over the site for the second time in five years.
Four years after West New York’s Zoning Board shut down a different residential proposal on the lot, plans submitted by Joseph Felice to construct a 35-unit apartment complex in the same location have drawn the ire of certain residents, many of whom successfully fought the other proposal back in 2009.
Opponents of the Felice proposal are complaining about the 11 special variances that the complex has applied for in order to deviate from West New York’s zoning regulations.
The proposal vastly exceeds the zoning board’s maximum density allotted. West New York allows a maximum of 80 units per acre for a given development. The Felice proposal averages to 166.4 units per acre, slightly higher than the long-dead Alpy proposal’s 148.
But the biggest concern for many lies in the Felice proposal’s lack of setback space.
“You’re talking about a situation where we have a meltdown, essentially, in our transportation systems.”— Joshua Breakstone
Opponents of the project claim that placing a high-rise apartment building so close to the adjacent townhouses will harm local families.
“You’re talking about a real serious impact on people who have lived in an area for many, many years,” said Joshua Breakstone, a member of Concerned Citizens for the Preservation of Quality of Life along the Palisades. “They’re talking about building right alongside these peoples’ homes…Light [and views] will be blocked.”
Residents that live around the proposed site have expressed similar concerns.
“I do have a view of the [New York] skyline,” says Jim Natale, who lives directly across the street from the proposed complex. “That will basically just be a wall now.”
Breakstone and his group, which is also opposing the development of a 13-story high-rise on Boulevard East at 67th street – seven blocks away – maintain that the Felice proposal will create a nightmare scenario for already-frazzled commuters in West New York.
“You’re talking about a situation where we have a meltdown, essentially, in our transportation systems here,” Breakstone said, citing the already standing-room-only bus routes that pass through Boulevard East. “Are we going to have another 200 people a day commuting at the bus stop where people are waiting to get in and out of New York? Or 150? Or 100?”
An attorney for Felice did not return two messages for comment by press time.
Last week, Breakstone also cited the proposal’s parking situation as a concern.
While the zoning laws require the building to have at least 65 parking spaces, the Felice proposal will contain only 41 spaces within its self-contained garage.
Breakstone and Concerned Citizens believe that the number of parking spaces in the building will force more cars into on-street parking and increase local traffic, especially around 62nd street and Monitor Place.
The residential proposal that was submitted several years ago, by a different developer, was struck down on similar grounds, with the zoning board ruling that it was “too much in too small an area, with a crowded roadway at its frontage.”
A planned zoning board meeting on June 12 to discuss the Felice proposal was rescheduled, with the new meeting scheduled for 7:30 at City Hall on June 24.
Through the controversy, Breakstone and Concerned Citizens have maintained that they are anything but an “anti-development” group.
“We are not anti-development,” he said. “We are pro-development, but we expect our local boards to hold these developers that are coming in from all over the place….to our local zoning decisions and our local zoning laws.”
The group also encouraged residents to come to ongoing West New York meeting to discuss revising the city’s master plan for zoning. A master plan gives guidelines for future development in a city. The first meeting to discuss the revisions was held this past Wednesday at City Hall.