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Board 7 okays expansion for Whitestone homeowner

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Monday night’s Community Board 7 meeting turned into a heated debate about illegal conversions when a Whitestone couple asked for approval of a variance to allow them to expand their home.

Some members of the community board wondered what would happen to the one-family home located in Whitestone at 146-01 17th Ave., now owned by the Morley family, if the couple were allowed to add a 15- by 16-foot expansion.

“There’s a potential there to create an illegal apartment,” said Arthur Barragan, a member of the board.

Barragan worried that a third entrance, requested by the Morleys for the cellar of the home, could be used to create a second, illegal apartment if the home was sold.

Barragan began to argue with Sol Korman, an engineer for the Augusta Corporation, who presented the Morley’s application.

Tom Morley, the father of two children, said the home was currently too small to raise his family.

“We can’t afford another home in the neighborhood,” he said. “We like the neighborhood. I’m not looking to move out.”

Morley explained that the cellar entrance was intended as a fire escape for his children. He said the family planned to have a playroom in the cellar as well as adding a dining room on the first floor and a third bedroom on the second floor with the added space.

After he spoke, many defended Morley’s application.

“I think he’s a forthright individual,” said Joseph Governale, fourth vice chairman of the board. “I don’t see him being a land baron like some of the people in Whitestone.”

The Morleys needed a variance because the house was built in 1961, just before the current zoning regulations took effect. The house is only 15 feet wide, sitting on a property that is 25 feet by 120 feet. Because of setbacks, zoning regulations for the area would allow the house to be only five feet wide if it were built today, creating the need for a variance for any further expansion.

Despite the passion of the discussion, the board in the end voted overwhelmingly to approve the variance, 33-1. Only Isaac Sasson voted against the measure.

The application moves on to the Queens Borough President’s Office for further recommendation before it can be officially approved by the Board of Standards and Appeals.

Before the debate, the board listened to Carter Craft, program director of the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance, a network of groups interested in cleaning up and developing the city’s waterfronts.

“We’re living at a time in New York City when water is the best it’s been in 150 years,” said Craft. “But we’re not done yet.”

Craft warned people about fishing in Flushing Bay, which still has some of the worst quality water in the city.

He said his group was looking for the city to develop water transit in all five boroughs. He explained that the Staten Island/Manhattan Ferry was the only MTA funded ferry in the city.

“We think one of the solutions for water transit is to have the MTA invest,” he said.

In other news, Margaret Shannon of the Center of Unlimited Enrichment at Queens College spoke of classes being offered at the school.

The school, designed for seniors, will begin its spring semester March 18 with weekly classes in current affairs, literature, city government and other topics at a cost of $60.

At the end of the meeting, the board voted to approve the preliminary budget for the fiscal year 2003 and the Citywide Statement of Needs for the fiscal year 2003-2004 as written.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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