Residents debate O’Neill's expansion at land use meeting
by Benjamin Fang
May 09, 2018 | 2687 views | 0 0 comments | 165 165 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Despite strong objections from many area residents, the proposal to expand O’Neill's Restaurant passed Community Board 5’s Land Use Committee on Monday and will be up for a vote before the entire board next week.

O’Neill's, a longtime staple in Maspeth, is seeking to add a partial second-floor banquet hall that would seat up to 140 people. The expansion would increase the building’s height to 25 feet.

If the rezoning is approved, six adjacent lots on both sides of the restaurant, some of which are not properly zoned, would be grandfathered into the code, according to land use attorney Nora Martins.

At last month’s CB5 meeting, residents who spoke overwhelmingly supported the expansion, citing the restaurant’s civic participation, charitable deeds and connections to the community.

But on Monday, a contingent of neighbors said they fear parking, congestion and possible overdevelopment would worsen from the expansion.

Christine, who lives on 54th Avenue and 66th Street, said not only is parking already difficult, but the valet parking in front of O’Neill's often reroutes or delays the Q67 bus. She also complained about the noise from “drunken brawls” at night.

“It’s just too much for our neighborhood,” she said. “Why does it need to be bigger?”

The Maspeth resident collected more than 100 signatures on a petition, citing the same fears. She said when she spoke to neighbors, many did not even know what was going on.

“They’re tired of it,” she said. “If they have parties, it’s going to be worse. Find a better place with parking.”

Cynthia Mitchell, a resident of 65th Place, said her issue is that she has to wait five minutes just to cross the street. She cited parking as another concern, noting that despite valet parking, many patrons choose to find their own parking, adding to congestion.

“We always have to sit and wait for a spot to open,” she said. “It’s outrageous.”

To address the ongoing parking concerns, Steve Sinacori, a land use consultant, said O’Neill's will use locations at Martin Luther School and Pat’s Service Station for valet parking. He said they’ve used Martin Luther School’s lot in previous large-scale events, such as their St. Jude fundraisers.

He estimated that would fit up to 80 cars altogether.

The Land Use Committee asked the O’Neill's team to produce letters from both the school and the station about their agreement. Committee members also spoke about potentially changing parking regulations near Principe Park.

The meeting also addressed concerns that with the new zoning, if O’Neill's ever left, a new owner could build residential units above the restaurant. Sinacori and the O’Neill's team agreed to sign a restrictive declaration that they would not build residential uses above the restaurant.

“We’ll put it in writing and report it to the property,” he said.

The proposal will go before the full board on Wednesday, May 16, at Christ the King High School.
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