Whitestone eatery plan breaks Franco’s pledge

The owner of the White House restaurant planned an expansion after the eatery was rezoned for commercial use earlier this year.
TimesLedger Newspapers

After part of a block was rezoned over the summer to accommodate the expansion of the White House restaurant in Whitestone, plans submitted to the city for the new eatery showed the maximum occupancy would be twice as large as the developer had told the community.

Despite receiving new zoning for the restaurant at the local and City Council level, the design plans were rejected by the city Buildings Department and the ambitious undertaking by restaurateur Joe Franco, former proprietor of Caffe on the Green in Bay Terrace, remains in limbo.

After the contentious rezoning was passed in June, which gave Franco the legal right to expand, architect Christopher Papa filed plans for the improved restaurant and catering hall with the city Department of Buildings. The plans were ultimately rejected, but the information supplied by the architect contradicted what Franco’s team said in public hearings.

One of those documents showed the maximum capacity would increase from 562 to 705.

But during a hearing by the Council Committee on Zoning and Franchises, Jessica Loeser, a lawyer representing Franco, said the new certificate of occupancy would not “come anywhere close” to exceeding the 562 in the previous certificate, according to transcripts from the hearing.

In addition, a lawyer for Franco had said the occupancy of the new restaurant would be around 300 people when he presented the plans to Community Board 7, according to minutes from the meeting. Franco’s representatives told the City Planning Department the capacity would remain unchanged at about 300 people, according to a report.

Franco and a lawyer who represented him, Steve Sinacori, both declined to be interviewed. Papa, the architect, did not return repeated requests for comment.

City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said the plan is not a perfect one, but it could help the blighted block. The maximum occupancy in the plans does not necessarily mean that Franco would want to cram 700 people into the restaurant, he said.

According to state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) , who opposed the plan, Franco may or may not use the whole capacity. But nothing would be legally stopping him or anyone else who bought the property from doing so if the plans had been approved, he said.

Other people familiar with the development doubted the structure could physically hold that many people.

The inconsistencies do not represent any illegality, Nevertheless, Brian Garry, who lives next door, said it shows how Franco pulled a fast one on the neighborhood.

In another inconsistency, Garry did not want his home and property to be commercially zoned along with the restaurant.

But in-between the final public hearing and the final vote, the commercial overlay was extended to include a 5-foot strip of Garry’s property along the border of the White House without an explanation.

Garry said it was zoned that way to circumvent a requirement of an 8-foot buffer between a residential property and a commercial property. This was confirmed by a spokesman for Halloran.

Buildings ultimately rejected Franco’s plans in August because they were missing a substantial amount of information.Franco did not show how he would provide adequate parking for the restaurant, according to Buildings.

In the presentations made by Franco and his team, he had said he would create 110 parking spaces using an underground garage in another lot he owned behind the restaurant.

No plans were submitted to Buildings for that parking garage, the department said.

Franco also had said he would give up a cabaret license for the establishment. The city Department of Consumer Affairs could not locate a license for the White House at all. The last cabaret license at that address was for Moana Kai, which predated the White House, and expired in 1990.

Franco now plans to scale back the renovation and not add the expansive second floor that caused the uproar in the first place, according to Halloran.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Reader Feedback

Joe from Whitestone says:
Will someone please look into Hallorans ties with Franco. Interesting how welcome to Whitestone and Halloran were in full support of franco and his vision. Halloran calls that block "blighted" and attempts to make Franco a knight in shining armor on a virgin white horse about to rescue the neighborhood. Halloran and welcome to whitestone are in cohoots to push this project down our throats, why? Whitestone needs to band together and stop this before our neighborhood is totally destroyed.
Dec. 26, 2011, 8:11 pm
MARIO from BEECHHURST says:
City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) said the plan is not a perfect one, but it could help the blighted block. The maximum occupancy in the plans does not necessarily mean that Franco would want to cram 700 people into the restaurant, he said

IF HE DOES WHO IS GOING TO STOP HIM?
IF ITS NOT PERFECT WHY ARE YOU SUCH A STAUNCH SUPPORTER?
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS ON HOW TO MAKE IT "PERFECT"?

LETS SEE A BUSINESS MAN WHO CAN CHARGE $100 PER PERSON TIMES 5OO IS GOING TO SAY NO I ONLY WANT TO PUT IN THE MAXIMUM I PROMISED THE COMMUNITY BOARD OF 300. HMM? DO YOU REALLY THINK WE ARE ALL THAT DUMB
Dec. 26, 2011, 8:27 pm
MARIO from BEECHHURST says:
Franco now plans to scale back the renovation and not add the expansive second floor that caused the uproar in the first place, according to Halloran

I our councilman this guys attorney? Sure does alot of talking for him.
Dec. 26, 2011, 8:30 pm
Cindy from Whitestone says:
Joe? How would a new restaurant opening in a location were a restaurant had stood for decades be bad for our neighborhood? Look at it now, you rather it just sit there and rot away? At that point you will be crying for someone to work on a clean up and then a civic group like Welcome To Whitestone would have to step in to organize another successful volunteer beautification project.
Dec. 28, 2011, 11:11 am
Tom from Whitestone says:
Wow You people need To Move to Florida. What A bunch of cry babies. Here is A guy whom wants to make the area more vital and bring some economy to an area that looks like a scene out of a road warrior movie. Tony Avella Has A bug up his a** for franco. Whats the matter Tony Franco did not comp you any dinners when he ran caffe on the green. Hey Here a solution lets put a mosque there or maybe a Korean church or even a Greek church. Or A Synagogue. Get The Picture Boys. Here is another great idea Take the whitestone farm location and open a florist shop and parking lot for the overfill of the cars so the cry babies won't be inconvenienced. Wise up people. let progress move on
Dec. 28, 2011, 12:33 pm
Joe from Whitestone says:
Cindy? Not submitting plans for parking is acceptable to you? Making it so he avoids a sound barrier by getting Gerrys 5 feet of Private Property rezoned commercial is acceptable?

Tom, no one said they didnt want a restaurant, just not a catering hall. You speak of progress, when in reality it is destruction of a neighborhood. Progress takes into account its surroundings and its neighbors.

Franco can easlily build a real nice restaurant with a party room, with parking. He needs to be considerate of his neighbors. Also, I find it a little disturbing that Sinacori and Franco have refused comment, yet our councilman has commented for him twice in this story.
Dec. 28, 2011, 12:57 pm
Tom from Whitestone says:
Joe i think your missing the point Would you rather have empty stores in this area and not have people come in the area. do you like looking at the whitestone farm closed and shuttered like it is now. And have the white house stay vacant so we have more eyesores. I think half the restaurants in queens do catering and have rooms. Joe would you rather have a church then you really can't do anything. I am sure this place would be done tastefully and to the needs of the area. Change is good Accepting it is harder
Dec. 28, 2011, 3:32 pm
Joe says:
Change is good if done with the existing community in mind. Getting variances for other peoplse property in order to circumvent sound restrictions is not the way to do it. Filing plans that do not include the promised underground parking lot, and double the max promised is not the way to do it.

Having a representative that does more talking for the guy trying to be slick and stick it to the neighborhood by not doing what he initally promised disturbs me.

Ever wonder why the owner of Whitestone Farms is sitting on the property?

Isn't Dennis Ring one of the attorneys involved in that site?
Dec. 29, 2011, 12:44 pm
Tom from Whitestone says:
The White Stone farm the guy wants a lot of money for that property which you know nobody is going to give him probably because of the location. i doubt it very much you would be getting 700 people at the Whitehouse new catering facility. The reason yo can't build on the whitestone farm parking lot is it has a under ground sewer system so i guess the weight of the building would be a factor there and more suitable for a parking lot. I don't think franco is sticking anything to the neighborhood. he can just walk away and not open at all. and we can have an empty building and all god's children will be happy
Dec. 29, 2011, 4:32 pm
Joe says:
Whiter you doubt it or not, why did he introduce plans for it and with no parking to boot. You mad an interesting point, Whitestone Farms as a parking lot. Also, why is he asking too much? Why not what the market dictates? Why not even put it up for lease? Smelling a little fishy if ya ask me.
Dec. 29, 2011, 9:02 pm

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