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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Whitestone Development site worries community

A 13-acre property in Whitestone is up for grabs — the largest single parcel of land for sale in Queens — and it’s attracting the attention of developers but also causing concern among community leaders.

The former industrial site, located at 151-45 6th Rd., was re-zoned for 52 one-family homes in 2008. The waterfront property comes with an additional five acres that is submerged underwater.

Local leaders worried about overdevelopment in the community said they are concerned that a new owner could build many more homes or even multi-family dwellings.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the community wants the buyer to stick to the original plan for 52 one-family homes. “If a developer intends to do something else, they can expect to get a huge fight,” he warned.

The property hit the market in early December after the owner ran into financial difficulty, said real estate agent Stephen Preuss, of Massey Knakal Realty Services, who is handling the site.

“It’s probably going to be a few months before we have any type of sale,” Preuss said. But “it’s one of the most desirable areas to live in Queens.”

Prospective buyers must submit overviews of what they plan to build on the site, Preuss said. He added it will “probably sell for a very deep discount.”

Marlene Cody, vice president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, said she’s concerned that a large influx of new residents could overburden the area’s infrastructure.

“We have to be careful what they want to put there,” she said. “The community’s being overbuilt.”

Nelly Andrushenko, owner of Power Realty in Whitestone, said the land is worth about $40 million — but it won’t be an easy sale.

“It’s very difficult to tell the value of this property because the developers don’t want to touch it right now,” she said. “In order for [developers\] to build the luxury homes that were intended, they need to spend $600,000 minimum to build each house.”

Whitestone homes typically sell for about $1 million, she said.

A nearby shopping center, anchored by a Waldbaum’s, was sold to the New Jersey real estate company Onyx Equities for $17.6 million on Dec. 27. It is located at 153-01 10th Ave.

“We want to improve the physical quality of the center,” said Onyx Senior Vice President Steve Sullivan. The company also wants to improve “the quality of the existing tenant roster.”

Monday, January 9, 2012

Whitestone Memorial day Parade fund raiser

We would like to invite all members of the Whitestone community to attend the Dinner Dance Saturday January 28th at 7:30 to 11:30 being giving by the Dwarf Giraffe Athletic League to help support The Whitestone Memorial Day Parade.

This will be a fun way to show your support and help our Veterans with funds they need for the parade. Tickets are $50.00 per person and may be purchased at our building located at 149-50 15th rd in Whitestone Monday thru Friday from 6 to 9 pm. Space is limited and no tickets will be sold at the door. Please show our Veterans that we as a community are always there for them. The Dinner dance will include Buffet,DJ & Open bar.

 Thanks again for your support.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Franco shrinks White House

The architect who plans to renovate Joe Franco’s White House restaurant in Whitestone released a statement last week describing scaled-down plans to reinvent the ageing eatery.

Earlier this year Franco, who previously ran Caffe on the Green, received a zoning change to renovate the restaurant, at 10-24 154th St., after his team described the plans for the restaurant before various community bodies and eventually the City Council and Department of City Planning.

After he received the zoning, he was free to build anything allowed by the commercial overlay yet had already painted a picture of the new White House to the community.

The statement released last week was in response to a TimesLedger Newspapers article which pointed out discrepancies between what Franco described to the Council and plans for the restaurant filed with the city Department of Buildings.

Those plans were ultimately rejected by Buildings, which the architect, Christopher Papa, said was what he had intended in the first place.

“The plans that were filed were filed only as an upgrade of the existing conditions and solely to gain an analysis of egress requirements and to serve as a preliminary basis to obtain contractor bids for the construction,” Papa said in a statement. “These plans were never intended to be approved nor to reflect the final product.”

Egress requirements stipulate that people inside the building have to be able to get out with a certain degree of ease.

A spokeswoman for the DOB said that egress requirements are available in the city’s building code, a set of laws that govern the construction of new buildings.

Papa paid a fee to have his plans electronically entered into the Buildings database and reviewed by the department, a process that the department’s website depicts as usually resulting in the eventual construction of what was submitted. The plans were rejected due to incomplete information.

But Papa said he and Franco are still hashing out a vision more modest than Franco’s original, which had involved renovating the second floor of the building and turning it into a catering hall.

“Currently, Mr. Franco and I are working together to design a more conservative, cost-economical structure that is more fitting with the current economy,” Papa said.

The plan is now to scrap any renovations of the second floor. Instead, the cellar banquet room will be renovated and its occupancy will drop from 238 to approximately 100, according to Papa.

The first floor will function for catering and restaurant uses. Its occupancy, too, will fall from 324 to 200, according to Papa.

That would bring the occupancy for those two floors to 300 people, the number repeatedly described by Franco’s team as the occupancy for the renovated eatery, although the rejected plans submitted to Buildings pegged it at 705.

The second floor will only be used for storage and office uses, according to Papa.

Papa and Franco had originally described providing 110 parking spaces for the proposed catering hall, but in the scaled-down version they will provide 75 instead.

Franco also dropped plans to expand the footprint of the first floor, which Papa said will ensure the driveway will remain in the same place and not encroach upon a neighboring property.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.