Permits Filed: 65-70 Austin Street, Rego Park

65-70 Austin Street (low-rise building abutting the train tracks, center), image from Bing Maps65-70 Austin Street (low-rise building abutting the train tracks, center), image from Bing Maps

New development in Queens tends to be concentrated on either end of the borough, with projects in Long Island City and Astoria on one end and Flushing on the other, with very little in between.

Which is why we were pleased to see a new building permit pop up today in the heart of central Queens, in Rego Park. There, at 65-70 Austin Street, behind the Long Island Rail Road’s main line, a new building permit application has been filed for a seven-story residential building.

The permit was filed by GF55, who’s done a number of larger buildings in Manhattan, on behalf of Woodmere Development, which appears to be affiliated with Amana Tool, a woodworking equipment store in Farmingdale, New York.

The building would, according to the permit application, rise 70 feet and include 45 apartments spread over 34,550 square feet of net residential space, for an average unit size of less than 800 square feet (we’re guessing rentals). It will include 28 off-street parking spaces, which is only a few more than required by zoning.

While this corner of Rego Park is appropriately zoned, more or less – Austin Street has been gradually filled in with mid-rises over the past few decades – the areas to the east are not, and the resulting lack of housing development has been pushing prices up in the borough and throughout the city and region for decades.

Large swaths of 1930s and ’40s Tudor-style townhouses, for example – cute two-story homes with large yards, but ultimately nowhere near dense enough to satiate the demand for housing in Queens, especially among the borough’s burgeoning immigrant groups – were downzoned early in the 2000s. Where mid-rises were once allowed everywhere in this part of Rego Park between the LIRR tracks and Queens Boulevard, now the single-family blocks are frozen that way, arresting Queens’s natural cycle of gradual redevelopment and densification.

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