Developers restricted to building 52 homes at controversial Whitestone property

Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS

Updated Dec. 29, 1 p.m.

A long sought after deed-restricting developers to a smaller development plan for a Whitestone property has been secured, a local lawmaker announced.

The Edgestone property, a 18-acre waterfront site at 151-45 Sixth Rd. also known as “Waterpointe,” has been a topic of concern in the neighborhood for over a decade. Edgestone Group LLC, the site’s current owner, is currently working to remediate the site — which was formerly an industrial zone and is covered with toxic soil — under the oversight of the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) through the voluntary Brownfield Cleanup Program.

On Dec. 27, Councilman Paul Vallone announced that the Edgestone Group had filed a declaration with the city permanently binding any entity developing the site to 52 detached, single-family homes. This agreement is in accordance with a 2008 special permit supported by local elected officials, civic leaders and community members.

Overdevelopment at the site has been an ongoing concern for local leaders. In May 2015, over 100 residents and lawmakers gathered at the site to protest the original Waterpointe proposal, which would have brought 97 two-family townhouse homes and nine additional single-family houses to the site.

Charles Apelian, First Vice Chairperson of Community Board 7 (CB7), reached out to Vallone and Queens Borough President Katz to secure the filing and put the community’s overdevelopment concerns to rest.

“The filing by the owner pursuant to the Borough President’s and our request to permanently bind and protect the land as 52 single-family homes is a clear victory for anyone who has stood with us,” Vallone said. “These deed restrictions will last forever whether or not a future downzoning is approved.”

CB7 member Joseph Sweeney welcomed news of the filing in a statement.

“The community of Whitestone and Community Board 7 are happy that Council member Vallone and Borough President Katz were able to intercede and get a deed restriction for the Whitepointe property,” Sweeney said. “This deed restriction will help secure the preservation of the community in Whitestone forever.”

Meanwhile, another local lawmaker remains skeptical. In a statement released on Dec. 28, state Senator Tony Avella called the developer’s move a “helpful gesture,” but not a victory.

“For over two years we have been trying to get Edgestone to agree to this deed restriction and I’m glad that they have finally formally agreed to do so,” he said. “However, a formal downzoning of this area would be a more perfect solution.”

At the December CB7 meeting, certain board members expressed concerns with another aspect of the development: the site’s cleanup.

After a recent inspection, DEC determined the site was slated to achieve a “Track 4″ cleanup instead of the initially agreed upon and more intensive “Track 2 residential cleanup.” The Track 4 cleanup, while normally part of commercial development projects, can be used for restricted residential use under DEC guidelines.

Environmental Committee Chairperson James Cervino outlined his concerns with the change in track and the harmful toxins left behind. He questioned what the potential health impact could be on future residents and called for a return to the Track 2 cleanup plan.

On Dec. 19, a DEC spokesperson told QNS that the agency expects to issue the developers a certificate of completion for the remediation by the end of 2017. Developers are required to install a minimum two-foot cover in the ground, with a demarcation barrier between the fill and the cover.

The spokesperson also said the construction of single-family homes, usually not allowed under Track 4 DEC regulations, is permissible because developers have plans to create a “single certifying entity” to oversee the entire site and ensure the mandated health controls are being followed.

Mandated health controls include a sub-slab depressurization system (SSD) system installed in each new building erected on the lot, which will read for any harmful active vapors released into the air.

According to Vallone’s office, Edgestone President Anthony Hu has established an escrow account with $272,000 that will be used to pay for the first 10 years of expenses for the homeowners association in an “additional act of good faith.”

If the developer fails to meet the requirements of a restricted residential use site under DEC’s regulations, they will be subject to administrative enforcement, penalties and potential revocation of the certificate of completion.