Lancman vows to fight overdevelopment at the federal level
by Heather Senison
May 22, 2012 | 407 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Assemblyman Rory Lancman stood with local Flushing civic leaders near Bowne Park on Friday, May 18, to unveil a four-part legislative package to combat federal overdevelopment in residential neighborhoods.

Lancman intends to introduce the package, called the Homes and Essential Landmarks Preservation (HELP) Act, if he is elected into Congress in the Sixth Congressional District race.

Although one-third of Queens was rezoned since 2002 to protect residential areas from overdevelopment, the problem persists, Lancman said.

“It is really a very tragic situation when a neighborhood's fundamental character and appeal changes because of overdevelopment, because a beautiful house is knocked down and turned into an ugly, garish McMansion,” he said.

The first part of the HELP Act would limit tax deductions for homeowners and commercial property owners who do not comply with local zoning and building laws.

Currently, home and commercial property owners are eligible for mortgage and real estate tax deductions.

“Why would we let a homeowner or a commercial property owner who is not in compliance with the building laws, the zoning laws, qualify and receive a federal tax reduction for the mortgage interest that they pay on their property?” Lancman asked, while local homeowners and activists stood around him holding campaign posters.

The second part of the HELP Act focuses on local Building Departments. It would prevent localities from receiving federal funding if their Buildings Departments fail to collect more than 75 percent of fine money owed for violations.

New York City, for example, received $915 million from the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, although the Buildings Department (DOB) failed to collect $60 million in unpaid fines in Manhattan last year.

According to the State Comptroller, 47 percent of fines issued in DOB violations aren't collected after six months.

The third portion of the HELP Act would allow one- and two-family residential buildings to be eligible for a 20 percent tax credit if they are listed on the Historic Register, such as those in the Broadway section of Flushing, where Lancman held the press conference.

The provision would encourage homeowners to fix up their houses to preserve the appearance of historic neighborhoods, Lancman said.

The fourth would change the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) to prevent excessive zoning exceptions for religious institutions.

According to Lancman's office, at least seven houses of worship in Queens were exempt from local zoning laws and contributed to overdevelopment in their neighborhoods.

“We need to level the playing field for people who live in the community and houses of worship looking to overdevelop the community,” Lancman said.

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