BY DOMENICK RAFTER
Editor in Chief
Fifty-two single-family homes.
That’s what Community Board 7 Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian reiterated – several times – at Monday’s board meeting, he wanted to see built at the waterfront site in Whitestone that has been slated for development since 2008.
And that was the original plan the community board says it approved for the 18-acre property located at 151-45 6th Rd.
So it came as a surprise to Apelian, local elected officials and Whitestone residents when Edgestone, who purchased the land in 2012, suddenly announced it was building 107 homes at the site at April’s CB 7 meeting.
And those 107 homes were slated to be townhouses, not single-family dwellings as originally planned.
“The developer is declaring war on the community,” State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) asserted last month.
Whitestone residents rallied last weekend against the proposal but news leaked a couple days earlier that Edgestone has backed off and agreed to the original plan for 52 single-family homes.
Though the community board approved 52 single-family homes, Joe Sultana, the architect working on the development, said the original plan, dating back to 2008, was for twice that number – 114 homes.
“Senator Avella is wrong about the original plan,” Sultana said, further explaining that Bayrock, the developer who originally bought the land, later scaled back plans because they felt it would be easier to sell 52 single-family homes.
In order to facilitate that construction, Bayrock received a special permit to allow the homes to be built closer together, and the site was rezoned from being a manufacturing zone to R3-2, which Sultana said allows for two-family homes.
That zoning allowed Edgestone, which bought the property in 2012, to propose the 107-home plan, which Sultana said would have consisted of 98 townhouses and nine single-family homes.
He said the developers wanted to meet with the community board to update them on the plan to clean the site and construct the development.
“We asked the CB to give us information on what transpired before and what they were OK with,” Sultana explained.
CB 7 members opposed the changes, as did Whitestone civic leaders, Avella and Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside). The rally was scheduled, but Edgestone announced last week it would go back to the 52-house plan.
“[Edgestone] really just want to commit to something and they want to commit to a project the community is going to want,” Sultana said. “They’re not looking to start any arguments or wars with anybody.”
He acknowledged that cost was a factor in proposing townhouses. They would be more affordable that single-family homes and would not exacerbate rising property taxes in the neighborhood.
“A young couple just getting married now can’t live in Whitestone, they have to rent an apartment in Astoria or somewhere.” Sultana said. “But everybody wants single-family homes. It’s more contextual to the neighborhood.”
Several residents at Sunday’s rally said they didn’t mind if the homes sold for over $1 million, as developers said could happen.
In response to Edgestone’s decision, Vallone expressed optimism that the developer and community will be able to work together.
“They’ve agreed to do low-density residential,” he said. “And that’s the best outcome Whitestone can hope for.”