Bell restaurant plans nixed by CB 11

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After a heated debate, Community Board 11 narrowly voted against a variance to allow a restaurant planned for a vacant Bell Boulevard eyesore to expand the second floor.

Fifteen board members voted in favor of the controversial variance, 14 voted against it and three members abstained. But since board rules stipulate a majority vote is necessary to approve a variance, the abstentions effectively counted as negative votes, and the positive recommendation from the board was not granted.

Community Board 11, which covers Bayside, Little Neck, Douglaston, Oakland Gardens, Hollis Hills and Auburndale, also voted to rename Glenwood Park in Little Neck in honor of a decorated native of the neighborhood who was killed in World War II.

The lengthy discussion on the latest Bell Boulevard business centered on Cascarino’s Restaurant, a family-style eatery and pizzeria which has two locations in Whitestone and College Point.

Having bought the two-story building at 39-17 Bell Blvd., the owners of Cascarino’s are planning to open a third location in Bayside.

Cascarino’s management applied to build an 637-square-foot addition to the second floor for bathrooms, a stairway, office space and an employee service area. Some 311 square feet of the proposed extension goes beyond zoning laws, thereby requiring a variance, according to Richard Powers and Steve Sinacori, attorneys representing Cascarino’s.

The discussion on Cascarino’s began with about 10 residents, mostly from Whitestone and College Point, praising the management of the restaurant’s current locations.

“I can vouch for their excellent character,” said Fred Mazzarello, president of the College Point Board of Trade, speaking of the owners of Cascarino’s. “The restaurant is very community-minded.”

Frank Skala, president of the East Bayside Homeowners, however, attacked the planned expansion, saying Cascarino’s wanted more space to expand the bar area on the second floor.

“The bottom line is they want to make a bigger bar,” he said.

Ramesh Sawlani, whose backyard faces the rear of the proposed restaurant, worried about noise from the restaurant, which is to be open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. He also was concerned that the expansion would cut off light to his home.

“All the flowers are going to die in the backyard,” he said.

But Bernard Haber, the former chairman of Community Board 11, said he had studied the ground and determined neighbors would not lose any sunlight under the plans.

Haber, who voted in favor of the variance, said the vacant location needed business.

“What you see there right now is horrible,” Haber said.

Board member Melvyn Meer, however, argued the granting of the variance would set a negative precedent.

“If they get the variance, then every restaurant on Bell Boulevard will ask for the same thing,” Meer said.

The requested variance moves on to Queens Borough President Helen Marshall for further recommendation. Afterward, the city Board of Standards and Appeals will vote on whether or not to grant the variance.

Before the argument over the Bell Boulevard site , the board voted to recommend renaming Glenwood Park in Little Neck in honor of World War II Lt. Michael Szap.

Szap’s nephew, a doctor also named Michael Szap, presented the request for the tiny park at the intersection of Glenwood Street and 39th Road.

Szap told the board his uncle was not only “gallant in action” but well known in Little Neck.

“He was a community member, and he was very active in the community,” he said.

Szap said his uncle, who had earned the Bronze Star medal, Silver Star medal and Purple Heart, saved many lives when fighting in northern France and Germany, where he died in 1945. The elder Szap was the first postal carrier killed in World War II and had lived on 247th Street in Douglaston.

Some board members expressed reservations about voting in favor of the name change because residents had not responded to letters asking for input on the issue.

“Even here tonight there’s no one to speak for or against this issue,” said board member George Mihaltses.

The board’s recommendation goes to the city Parks Department for ultimate approval.

On a less contentious item, the board unanimously voted to recommend renewing the permit of Farrell’s Restaurant at 45-53 Bell Blvd. to continue an indoor sidewalk cafe.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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