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Pelham Bay homeowners left in darkness, facing a wall

Bronx Times

These Pelham Bay homeowners are literally up against the wall.

Patty Justiniano and her husband Fernando never dreamed when they bought their home 13 years ago that the view out the windows on one side of their two-family house would would be a cinder block wall.

That’s exactly what happened when a developer at 3529 Bruckner Blvd. recently began putting up a 14-unit apartment building next door.

Yet the project appears to perfectly comply with the R-7-1 zoning in the area, which a number of city officials said allows building right up to their property line.

“There should be some stipulation that if you are building next to existing property, then you have to leave some space,” said Justiniano. “I am basically going to have to brick up every window on that side of my house.”

There are full-size windows, and several smaller basement windows, on the northern side of her house at 3525 Bruckner Blvd., along with gutters which will block sunlight, she said.

Measurements taken by a reporter show a scant 12 inches between the walls of the Justiniano’s home and the building being constructed next door.

Councilman Jimmy Vacca pushed for contextual downzoning of Pelham Bay, first as district manager of Community Board 10 and later in the City Council, he said.

He fought to get all of Board 10 covering the area and Throggs Neck included in Lower Density Growth Management, which places further rules on community facilities and imposes additional parking requirements.

Vacca said that he had flagged the developer’s project shortly after seeing the permit applications in May 2012, and was contacted by Justiniano.

From May until December, Vacca said he worked to reduce the total number of apartments from 16 to 14, cut the building’s density, had the developer add seven on-site parking spaces (that appear to be indoors, according to building plans) and stop the developer from building two separate buildings instead of one on each officially-sized lot space for 3527 and 3529 Bruckner Blvd.

All of that was done by following a plethora of newer zoning resolutions put in place starting in 2004 through 2010, he said.

However, zoning that block in Pelham Bay for only smaller one- and two-family homes was not feasible because the “context” of the block already had three larger apartment buildings, said Vacca.

There is even a 13-story high-rise on the block, built around 1965, and several older apartment buildings, said Vacca.

Given the context of what is already in the in the area, Vacca said he does not believe that the city would or could legally downzone the area to include only one- or two- family homes, though he did not rule out further downzoning.

The developer - listed on Department of Buildings permits as Anton Tinaj and builder Arberia & Associates, but possibly a larger partnership - was not forthcoming with information.

“I am allowed to build to the property line,” said Tinaj. He declined further comment.

While the way the building is being constructed at 3529 Bruckner Blvd. appears to be legal, Justiniano contends it is still not a good thing.

“The entire right side of my house is literally useless,” said Justiniano. “People have literally rang my bell and told me they were in awe.”

Patrick Rocchio can be reach via e-mail at procchio@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 742-3393

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