State Senator Tony Avella and community group argued that rezoning would lead to undesirable uses. On July 28, 2011, the City Council approved TD Bank’s rezoning proposal to facilitate the construction of a one-story bank building near the Cross Island Parkway in Whitestone, Queens. The proposal established a C1-2 commercial overlay on the majority of a triangle-shaped block zoned R3A and generally bounded by the Cross Island Parkway Service Road, 15th Avenue, and 148th Street. The rezoning area comprises portions of four lots occupied by a non-conforming lumberyard, a gas station, and an automotive repair facility operating pursuant to a BSA variance. Pursuant to a 20- year lease, TD Bank plans to replace the lumberyard site with a 3,849 sq.ft. bank building with parking for eighteen vehicles.
Queens Community Board 7 and Borough President Helen M. Marshall supported the proposal. Marshall, however, recommended that TD Bank use landscaping to screen the bank’s parking lot from adjacent residential properties.
At the City Planning Commission’s May 25 public hearing, Kim Cody, president of the Greater Whitestone Taxpayers Civic Association, testified in opposition. According to Cody, the rezoning would permit subsequent future undesirable commercial uses, such as a strip mall, were TD Bank to leave the site. Cody requested that TD Bank instead pursue a BSA variance.
The Commission unanimously approved the rezoning, noting that a C1-2 zoning district would recognize the existing commercial character of the “heavily trafficked” service road, and would limit future commercial development to a scale appropriate for the surrounding area. The Commission also noted that TD Bank had agreed to use a six-foot fence and evergreen shrubs to screen the parking lot from neighboring residences.
At the Council’s Zoning & Franchises Subcommittee hearing, a representative of State Senator Tony Avella claimed that the proposal would unravel the protections created by the 2005 Whitestone Rezoning and would set a precedent similar to the recently approved White House rezoning. 8 CityLand 87 (July 15, 2011). Avella’s representative pointed out that because TD Bank would only lease the property, the rezoning would permit the property owner to develop an undesireable use on the site in the future.
Local Council Member Daniel J. Halloran supported the rezoning, although he acknowledged the concerns about the proposed “upzoning.” Halloran stated that local commercial businesses were struggling, and that the community needed to focus on job creation and “making accommodations” to encourage new businesses to invest in the area.
The Subcommittee unanimously approved the proposal, as did the Land Use Committee and the full Council.
Lead Agency: CPC, Neg. Dec.
Comm. Bd.: QN 7, App’d, 31-3-1
Boro. Pres.: App’d
CPC: App’d, 13-0-0
Council: App’d, 44-0-0
Council: TD Bank (C 100175 ZMQ – rezoning) (July 28, 2011) (Architect: Bohler Engineering).