From the Queens Chronicle:
With support from the area’s city councilman and little community opposition, Community Board 7 approved plans on Monday to enlarge the former White House restaurant in Whitestone, that would increase space for a catering facility and parking.
New owner Joe Franco, who formerly operated the popular Caffe on the Green at the Clearview Golf Course in Bayside, bought the Whitestone facility at 10-24 154 St. in December. He needs to change the zoning to R3-1 with a commercial overlay from its current R2A.
The area is now zoned for single- and two-family homes, but the restaurant was grandfathered in prior to the zoning restrictions. At Monday night’s meeting at the Union Plaza Care Center, CB 7 member Frank Macchio noted that a majority of the block is already commercial.
Franco wants to enlarge the parking lot and has purchased vacant property behind the restaurant and the adjacent building. No changes will be made to the facility next door, but the long-neglected yard will be transformed to accommodate up to 120 cars there and on stackers in the cellar. There will be valet parking.
Thirty-three parking spaces are required under the zoning, so developers believe there will be little chance of patrons taking up space on neighborhood streets.
Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) spoke in favor of the proposal, noting that Franco has promised to relinquish the restaurant’s cabaret license. “Nobody should stand in the way of responsible development,” the councilman said. “I’ve seen the plan and am comfortable with it.”
He said the restaurant, which has been in operation since 1956, is falling apart. “This is an opportunity,” Halloran added. “It will improve the quality of life in the area.”
But state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who used to represent the area when he was a city councilman, sent a statement opposing the project. While in the council, Avella successfully led the campaign to downzone many areas in Queens. “This application would upzone an area the community and I sought to protect,” Avella said.
He also questioned the “questionable business practices” that led to Franco’s loss of the city franchise at Caffe on the Green.
Paul Graziano, an urban planner who worked with Avella on zoning changes, spoke against the proposal Monday night. He questioned why a variance wasn’t sought for the parcel rather than a zoning change.
NY1 has great coverage of this.