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Whitestone follows Bayside in plan to downzone nabe

Just days after receiving approval for the rezoning of 350 blocks in Bayside, Queens Department of City Planning Director John Young matched the plans to 390 blocks in Whitestone, the largest low-density rezoning project yet out of more than two dozen studies."The pressures on existing housing stock and the development that is occurring is altering the traditional quality of many of these communities," Young told some 150 residents. "It occurs because in many places zoning is not closely mapped on a block-by-block basis for the character and patterns of those communities."Plans call for the rezoning of Whitestone along the arterial expressways of the community's perimeter, including areas between 25th and 26th Avenues and the East River, and areas between the Clearview and Whitestone expressways. Although the current area encompasses 390 blocks, several residents spoke out against the plan because it missed several blocks outside the highway system. Supporter of the plan, City Council Member Tony Avella (D-Bayside), said he will look into incorporating the outlying blocks.The proposal to rezone is the first since 1961 when the city undertook its last sweeping zoning change to adopt what is still today's zoning and still today's problem, Young said."The rules did not anticipate the McMansion phenomenon," he said, referring to the recent trend of developers to demolish single-family homes, split the lot and build homes with excessively large dimensions.To combat the sprawl of McMansions, the Department of City Planning created the R2-A district, which relinquishes a large amount of Whitestone from the broad R2 zoning of the past. Specifically, the R2-A plan places tighter restrictions on bulk, height and setback dimensions, putting a stopper in any future McMansions.During the meeting, several rounds of applause erupted from the audience as residents spoke out in favor of the rezoning. In an effort to cut through some of the red tape that often stalls zoning approvals, residents encouraged quick action from both officials and from each other."The longer we wait to have this passed, the longer the builders are going to take advantage of us here in Whitestone," said Pat Carpeteir of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association.Whitestone resident Marilyn Rice, of 147th Street, said the proposal to rezone would help save her neighborhood."There's a lot of houses in the Whitestone area and I don't know how they get away with that," Rice said. "In the middle of our block is one of these monsters, so you have to do this to stop these people from continuing; otherwise the neighborhood will be gone. If this goes through, it can save our neighborhood."Young said he expects the plans to reach the community board for public review by the beginning of fall. Avella said the entire project should be completed by the end of the year."I can tell you, every piece of property in Whitestone is analyzed in this study," Avella said. "We're going to move ahead with it."Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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