Local representatives ‘see progress’ on controversial Whitestone development

Photo by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS

A recent meeting between developers, state representatives and community activists regarding a hotly contested Whitestone property left some feeling hopeful.

Last week, state Senator Tony Avella, Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal and members of Community Board 7 and the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association met with state Department of Environmental Control (DEC) representatives and site developers to discuss the future of the Waterpointe property at 151-45 Sixth Rd.

The 18-acre site, which was formerly an industrial zone, has been a topic of concern in the neighborhood for over a decade due to its toxic soil and potential for overdevelopment. Plans to bring a total of 52 single-family homes to the site are in motion.

According to Avella, developers agreed to a number of the community’s concessions at the March meeting. They agreed to bring in additional virgin soil so that homeowners will be able to grow food in their garden. Developers also agreed that all funds placed in escrow to maintain the environmental monitoring system in each home will remain with the homeowners association at the end of the original 10-year escrow agreement term.

Still, the lawmaker claims, the funds in escrow are “inadequate and will prove to be too little over time.”

“We are pleased we have made progress with the community and the developer and we look forward to further discussions where we should be able to come to an agreement that is best for the future homeowners and community at large,” Avella said.

Rosenthal said he was “glad to see the current project moving forward in a transparent manner.”

“Working with Senator Avella and the Department of Environmental Conservation has allowed us to secure sensible accommodations for future homeowners and the entire Whitestone community. I look forward to seeing the developer make the appropriate investments to ensure our families’ homes are viable and safe in the long term,” the assemblyman said.

In 2012, Edgestone Group LLC purchased the land for $11 million and originally sought to build 97 two-family townhouse homes and nine additional single-family houses at the site. However, the developers changed their plans to 52 single-family homes after protests from the community.

In recent years, developers remediated the plot of land under the supervision of the DEC through the voluntary Brownfield Cleanup Program. When DEC announced that it had modified the cleanup agreement — allowing developers to achieve a “Track 4″ cleanup instead of the initially agreed upon and more intensive “Track 2″ — it was met with community outrage.

In November, Whitestone locals and state Senator Tony Avella met at the site for a press conference, claiming the community was “kept in the dark” about the developments. Board members at Community Board 7’s December general meeting raised concerns about the harmful toxins left behind.

Despite the outcry, on Dec. 29, DEC issued the owner a certificate of completion (COC) for their Track 4 remediation work at the site. The decision prompted a local call to action. A local civic group discussed pursuing legal action against state DEC and developers in January.

The Waterpointe site was originally purchased for $25 million in 2005 by developer Bayrock Group, who later went bankrupt after they were fined by DEC for transporting toxic soil into the already contaminated site.

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