Whitestone property brings overdevelopment fears

An official for Bayrock Group presents a plan to Community Board 7 for luxury housing in 2008.
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Whitestone residents are wary after a prime piece of real estate hit the market last week that offers developers a crack at the largest residentially zoned vacant property in Queens, but a lawmaker set up legal barricades to guard against overdevelopment years ago.

The 15-acre property, at 151-45 6th Road, is approved for 52 single-family homes, according to Stephen Preuss, of Massey Knakal Realty Services.

Pruess’ company is currently accepting offers on the site and has received dozens of bites from both local and national developers, he said, although he would not divulge how much the original mortgage was worth.

The area was formerly a trucking depot that was also used to store industrial materials, according to Preuss, and somewhere along the line the soil was contaminated and the area was declared a brownfield site.

Bayrock Group, a Manhattan-based developer, was the last owner of the site and performed remediation on the toxic soil.

Bayrock still has a rendering on its website from 2005 showing the 52 homes and public park it planned to build before a bank began foreclosure proceedings on the property several years ago, Preuss said.

Bayrock Group’s development plan for the property, which it estimated carried a pricetag of between $100 million to $200 million back in 2008, was approved by Community Board 7, Borough President Helen Marshall and ultimately the City Council Land Use Committee.

But Alfredo Centola, president of the Malba Gardens Civic Association, said now that the property was on the market, he was concerned about increased traffic in the neighborhood and the impact on local schools, which he said are overcrowded as it is.

“As we speak, there is a need for another school or an expansion,” he said. “What’s going to happen with all these new developments going on?”

Centola hopes that any developer that moves in builds responsibly.

Luckily for him, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) also had concerns about the impact of development on the community when plans were first proposed to build on the property several years ago.

Avella was a councilman in 2008 and sat on the Land Use Committee, where he oversaw the successful rezoning of the area for 52 homes when developers wanted to build more.

One plan pitched to him called for 400 units in multi-family dwellings.

Avella called the decision to go with single-family homes, which would complement the neighborhood’s existing character, a move that would set the precedent for the other projects down the line.

“We felt the end result was a landmark decision that would influence future developmen­ts,” he said.

Because of what Avella called a hard-fought battle to keep the housing stock less dense, he said any developer that purchases the property with ulterior plans should take heed.

“If they want to change that plan, they will get a huge fight from the community and from the [Department of City Planning],” he said.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Posted 7:14 pm, December 14, 2011
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Reader feedback

Laura from Whitestone says:
Thanks Al for always looking out for the community and pointing things out for everyone.
We need more people like Al.
Dec. 15, 2011, 9:08 pm

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