Whitestone nixes Nonna’s

By Alex Robinson

A Whitestone pizzeria’s plan to add a sidewalk cafe to the sidewalk outside has been met with strong opposition by residents.

Nonna’s Pizzeria, at 22-30 154th St., presented its plan to add a 320-square-foot cafe to Community Board 7 in September. Worries arose that the eatery’s enlarged clientele would cause a lot of noise and limit parking spaces for neighboring businesses and residents.

“The board was also concerned this would set a precedent for other restaurants to do the same thing,” CB 7 District Manager Marilyn Bitterman said.

The board voted 35-1 against approving the addition, which would provide the restaurant with space for an additional 22 chairs and 11 tables.

But the application was then approved by the city Department of Consumer Affairs earlier this year and is now waiting for a City Council vote later this month.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said the application should never have been greenlighted by the DCA because he claims there were discrepancies between what the pizzeria first proposed to the community board and what it submitted for final review.

“Sadly, it has been in my experience that DCA approves every sidewalk cafe application that comes across its desk, leaving it up to the City Council to catch discrepancies and deny faulty petitions,” Avella said.

Nonna’s Pizzeria’s manager and owners were not available for comment.

If approved, the sidewalk cafe would be the first of its kind for the neighborhood.

“This isn’t Manhattan,” said Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association. “You start with one place and every other restaurant is going to take up city sidewalk to expand their business. And I don’t believe that is right.”

Avella described the restaurant’s location as “a small block of five mom-and-pop stores surrounded by one-family homes.”

“A sidewalk cafe at this location is simply wrong,” Avella said. “If this application is approved by the City Council, abutting residents will suffer significantly increased traffic and noise.”

Whitestone’s community leaders are, however, not homogeneously opposed to Nonna’s plans.

Devon O’Connor, president of the Welcome to Whitestone Commercial and Residential Civic Association, said he thinks the sidewalk cafe is a great idea.

“Where the pizzeria is, it’s a huge lot. The street is so wide. I wouldn’t understand why they would be against it,” he said.

O’Connor contended the increased foot traffic from the larger restaurant would be beneficial for neighboring businesses.

“Why would someone try to shut this down?” he said. “It would be kind of nice as it would be the first of its kind around here.”

The sidewalk cafe’s fate will depend on a City Council vote, which will be heavily influenced by Councilman Paul Vallone’s (D-Whitestone) position on the application as the district he represents includes the pizzeria.

Vallone was a CB 7 member at the time the board voted on the application. He said he voted against the proposal then and will do so again once the City Council votes on it.

“We called it up to make sure it doesn’t get approved. We’ve taken the actions to stop it,” Vallone said. “It just wasn’t the right fit.”

As well as being unpopular with the community, Vallone said he will vote against the pizzeria’s application as it contained inaccuracies when it was first submitted to CB 7.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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