By Connor Adams Sheets
Borough President Helen Marshall has voiced her support for a zoning change that would allow the owner of the former White House Restaurant in Whitestone to be expanded.
Marshall’s support is contingent on the eatery’s owner, Joe Franco, following several stipulations suggested by community members, area preservationists, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).
The upzoning, which would clear the way for a proposal by Franco to upgrade the beloved restaurant from a one-floor restaurant into a two-floor catering hall and restaurant of significantly larger size, would have a significantly reduced scope under her guidance.
Franco earned Community Board 7’s approval last month for an upzoning to allow certain types of two-story residential and commercial buildings to be built on the entire east end of the block of 154th Street from 10th to 11th avenues, an area that includes two residences and a bank, as well as the White House and an adjacent property Franco owns.
That intact proposal went before Marshall Feb. 24, but after hearing the protestations of area politicians, neighbors and residents, she recommended March 14 that two fixes be made to the proposal. Her suggestions — which have no power to force action — will now go to the Council, which has the first binding vote on the issue.
She has suggested that the proposal be amended to “include only [the two restaurant propertiesï»¿] but not the adjacent properties” and to ensure “the facade of the wall facing the adjacent residential should be screened with planting materials and maintained in good conditions at all times.”
Halloran has said that he and at least two other Queens Council members will not allow the proposal to pass the Council without his approval of the terms, which would include ones similar to those Marshall proposed. He said he may also suggest added changes based on a meeting he had with members of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association Friday.
“I think we’re going to tweak a little more. I’m going to sit down with the Taxpayers and we’re going to look at some more options,” he said.
But he said he and Marshall are in agreement that the two changes she proposed must be included in the final upzoning, whether or not any others are added.
“Not upzoning the houses is something me and the borough president agree on, and we also agree that the White House property needs to be developed and we’re working with the community to make sure it gets done in a way that works for them,” Halloran said.
Another option for allowing the project to move forward would be for Franco to secure a variance allowing him to build a specific structure on the property, but Halloran said that is a less attractive option because it leaves the final decision to the city Board of Standards and Appeals, which is less tapped into community concerns than he as the councilman is.
Franco is the former proprietor of Caffé on the Green who lost the license in 2009 to the city Parks Department concession.
A Franco lawyer said last month he expects to break ground by early 2012.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.