By Paula Katinas
Sunset Park — Fresh from winning election to his first full term in office, Community Board Seven Chairman Fred Xuereb mapped out an ambitious agenda of projects for the board to work on this year.
“We want to finish rezoning in our neighborhood. We did most of Sunset Park, but we didn’t touch Eighth Avenue. It was not part of the rezoning of Sunset Park,” Xuereb said. “We want to give that our attention.”
Zoning and land-use issues are important, according to Xuereb, who pointed out that there is an ongoing effort to preserve the family-friendly feel of the community.
Board Seven worked with the Department of City Planning a few years ago to rezone a large swath of Sunset Park to preserve the community’s housing stock and to prevent high-rise developments from eating up the neighborhood. Many of Sunset Park’s streets are lined with handsome row houses, many of them only two or three stories high.
Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez carried the rezoning plans through the City Council, which voted to approve the reconfiguration.
The plan did not include Eighth Avenue, however, because of complications.
“The avenue is split between us and our neighbors in Board 12,” Xuereb said.
One side of the avenue is under Board Seven’s jurisdiction, while Board 12 in Borough Park has the other side, he said.
Eighth Avenue is the heart of Brooklyn’s Asian-American community.
“We’re going to be holding a public hearing on this issue soon. From 50th Street to 39th Street, we’d like to make it more residential. We don’t want high-rises taking over,” Xuereb said.
“There are also areas along 39th Street, on the west side of the street, from Eighth Avenue to Seventh Avenue that we are looking at. There are buildings there that are not being used,” he said, referring to commercial properties. “We’d like to see it used for residential purposes.”
Board Seven members also plan to work with their colleagues in Board 12 on at least one aspect of the rezoning effort, Xuereb said.
“Community Board 12 also wants to pay attention to the side streets off Eighth Avenue,” he said.
Under current zoning laws, the commercial zone extends 100 feet into a side street off the avenue.
“We want to reduce that to 50 feet. People who live on a side street don’t want a laundromat in the middle of their block,” Xuereb said.
Xuereb, a retired New York City Transit Authority superintendent, was elected by his Board Seven colleagues in December to serve as chairman. He had been serving as interim chairman for several months, following the resignation of Randolph Peers. Peers stepped down as chairman, but has opted to remain a board member. Xuereb, who had been serving as vice chairman, moved up to the top post.
Xuereb was elected to his first full term as chairman of the board. A community board chairman sets the agenda for the board’s public meetings, appoints committee chairmen, and represents the board at public hearings at City Hall, among other duties.
Xuereb has been on Board Seven for nine years, having been appointed in 2003.
In addition to zoning issues, Xuereb is also paying close attention to borough-wide beautification projects that will affect Sunset Park.
The board has been consulted by Borough President Marty Markowitz about his “Brooklyn Boulevard” project. Markowitz envisions turning Fourth Avenue from downtown Brooklyn to Bay Ridge into a grand boulevard of trendy shops, housing, tree-lined sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly crossings.
“We want to do something about the center medians,” Xuereb said, referring to the concrete traffic islands dotting the center of the avenue that separate the northbound and southbound lanes of traffic.
Sunset Park is the largest section included in the borough president’s “Brooklyn Boulevard” project.
“Fourth Avenue runs from one end of Brooklyn to the other and a lot of it is in Board Seven, so we want to have a say in this. We would like Sunset Park High School to throw in some ideas on what to do with Fourth Avenue,” Xuereb said.
The high school, which opened in 2009, is located on Fourth Avenue and 36th Street.
The borough president’s plan “is a long-term project,” Xuereb said. “There are also things we can do in the short-term to beautify Fourth Avenue.”
Chief among the board’s ideas is the possibility of having trees planted on Fourth Avenue between 15th and 39th Streets.
“From 36th Street to 65th Street, there are many trees. But from 39th Street down to 15th Street, we want to plant more trees in this end of the avenue,” Xuereb said.