CB 7 approves rezoning plan for Whitestone bank construction

Paul Proulx (l. to r.), an attorney for TD Bank, holds up a map of the area in Whitestone where the bank plans to build a branch while Community Board 7 member Bob LoPinto and Howard Hornstein, an attorney for TD Bank, look on. Photo by Connor Adams Sheets
By Connor Adams Sheets

Community Board 7 voted Monday night to support a plan that would rezone a Whitestone site to allow a TD Bank to be built.

If it gains city approval for its proposal, TD Bank hopes to open a 3,800-square-foot branch next year on a 20,000-square-foot piece of land that currently houses Whitestone Lumber and a marine repair facility, both of which would be knocked down to make room for the new building, at 148-02 14th Ave.

“When TD Bank comes into a community, it becomes part of the community, and we look forward to becoming part of your community,” Howard Hornstein, an attorney for the bank, said.

The application is for a commercial overlay to be placed over the site, which is currently zoned residential but was grandfathered in years ago for the existing commercial use.

“A commercial overlay adds a community use to an existing residential,” said CB 7 member Bob LoPinto. “It’s a legal nonconforming use. The current use is legal because it’s been there a long, long time, but it does not conform with zoning.”

The board’s Zoning Committee asked before approving the project March 9 for its engineers to look into routing all traffic leaving the bank’s two-lane drive-through onto the Cross Island Parkway. The plan TD presented Monday included that change in its traffic flow, which would keep an estimated 40 percent of the bank’s traffic off of residential 148th Street.

Board Chairman Eugene Kelty had some concerns about the traffic plan despite the change, and he proposed a “friendly motion” suggesting that all the bank’s traffic be required to exit on the Cross Island Parkway, which was seconded.

TD’s representatives explained that such a change would create unsafe conditions for pedestrians and drivers in the branch’s parking lot, and several board members said they opposed such a change as they believed it would create more traffic by forcing drivers to circle the block when they leave the lot.

In the end, Kelty withdrew his motion and the board approved the proposal by a vote of 31-2 with one abstention.

Dawa Jung, district representative for state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), spoke out in opposition to the rezoning on Avella’s behalf.

“This is primarily a residential area and there is no guarantee once you change the zoning that the bank will actually go in and that they won’t back out and another commercial use that isn’t desirable won’t go instead,” she said.

Jack Rainey, TD’s senior vice president for government and community banking, said he expects the bank — which will be open seven days a week — to thrive in the Whitestone location.

“We’re very successful when we go in under our formula, and we have no doubt that we’ll be successful in this location,” he said.

The bank will be LEED-certified and will include 21 parking spaces, three more than required under zoning restrictions.

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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