Proposed development to replace Restaurant Row angers community
by Jennifer Khedaroo
Feb 16, 2016 | 6884 views | 0 0 comments | 110 110 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Community Board 6 discussed a proposed development that would replace "Restaurant Row."
Community Board 6 discussed a proposed development that would replace "Restaurant Row."
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A rendering of the 12-story, mixed-use building.
A rendering of the 12-story, mixed-use building.
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During a heated Community Board 6 meeting last week, more details emerged on a proposed development at 107-18 70th Road in Forest Hills, which would replace the area known as "Restaurant Row."

The plan, according to the developer's attorney Adam Rothkrug, is to construct a 12-story, mixed-use building that would include a commercial space on the ground floor, a rooftop garden, glass walls and cellar parking for about 61 cars.

Restaurants impacted by the controversial plan include MoCa Asian Bistro, Cabana Nuevo Latino and The Grill Mediterranean Restaurant & Bar. Other eateries, such as Vanilla Sky, Aged and Narita won't be affected.

The area between Austin Street and Queens Boulevard is the only spot in Forest Hills where outdoor seating is permitted.

The architect for the development is Anthony Morali of Morali Architects. The company has previously designed nearby luxury condos such as The Aston, at 108-20 71st Avenue, as well as the Classic Kew Gardens at 83-30 Kew Gardens Road.

While the developer can currently build as high as eight stories, or 80 feet, they are hoping to be granted a special permit by the city to extend the building up to 12 stories, or 120 feet.

The board members will meet in the future to vote on the project and the height variance application.

The developer, who also owns a two-story building less than a block away at 70-49 Austin Street, is planning on utilizing unused development rights from that particular property to apply to his development at 107-18 70th Road.

According to Rothkrug, the proposed development will be shorter than neighboring Lane Towers at 107-40 Queens Boulevard, which stands at about 200 feet tall.

As of last Wednesday, the plans hadn't been filed with the Department of Buildings. Still, residents of the area flocked to the CB6 meeting in order to voice their opposition.

Michael Dunne, a resident of Lane Towers, said he couldn't find a single instance of a high-rise building being built alongside another high-rise in the area.

Once he heard the news, Dunne measured the distance between the proposed development and Lane Towers and found that the two buildings would be just 16 feet apart.

Lane Towers resident Jill Halpert-Steingart argued that the quality of life in Forest Hills will be hurt by the proposed development, especially as it relates to more traffic and parking issues. For families living in Lane Towers, Halpert-Steingart said, there will also be the loss of sunlight in their homes.

Children, some as young as nine years old, also spoke about problems the development would bring in terms of overpopulation and overcrowding in local schools.

Walter Weis, the president of the Lane Towers co-op board, called on the community to recognize that the new development would further increase the disappearing historic aesthetic of the neighborhood. Additionally, Weis noted that with the loss of the restaurants, roughly 100 to 200 people would lose their jobs.

Rothkrug said that the developer is open to having restaurants on the property, and they will also plan to build proper ventilation units for them. The developer may consider keeping the current restaurants once construction is complete, but The Grill owner Oleg Kaz doesn't see that happening.

"You build a restaurant according to your menu, to your design, to your concept," Kaz said. "Every little thing counts in the restaurant world."

Kaz opened The Grill a few years ago, and has invested nearly $600,000 into the popular establishment. He shared that his lawyer alerted him to a clause within his lease stating that the landlord had the right to kick him out if they wanted to, but Kaz signed against the lawyer's advice after the owner of the property "reassured" him that nothing would happen.

"70th Road is the most famous restaurant road in Forest Hills," Kaz said. "It's a shame that the richer get richer."
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