Several neighbors say that the industrial activities have caused lack of sleep, noise, dust and pollution, worsening their quality of life. The surrounding streets all contain residential homes.
Resident Julie Chang says she has trouble finding parking, constantly picks up garbage and often feels unsafe, particularly for her young daughter, when trucks go barreling down the street.
“Why should we live in this kind of condition?” Chang asked.
Eugene DiFolco said the dust has caused problems for residents, and fears residents are being exposed to asbestos.
“I can’t put on my air conditioner because all it does is suck up this dirt and dust,” he said. “I can’t go in my pool half the time because it’s dirty.”
Nancy Lenhart constantly sweeps her property because of all of the garbage being produced.
“The dust is horrible, I have to wear a mask to clean it up,” Lenhart said. “We’re doing all the labor with our homes and nobody else is helping us.”
Last Friday, the Whitestone residents enlisted the help of State Senator Tony Avella, who visited the site and called for a rezoning of the block to ease the tensions caused when mixing manufacturing with residential uses.
According to the state senator, this part of Whitestone near the waterfront was a manufacturing zone a century ago. But as time went by, more and more homes were built as the area turned residential.
Today, only 6th Road between 151st Place and 151st Street remains industrial. Bus company Vallo Transportation stores their buses on one end, while Grace Properties operates on the rest of the street.
“It’s the wild, wild west back there,” Avella said. “You have tractor-trailers coming and going, you have containers piled on top of each other.”
“Unfortunately, the city has not kept up with rezoning these properties as they should,” he added. “There’s no reason why these obnoxious uses should be going through the residential community.”
Three years ago, Avella first recommended rezoning the entire block. He said he wants to see one-family detached homes like the rest of the area.
The state senator believes that the property is worth more money as housing than its current use. In the event of a zoning change, the current facilities would be grandfathered in, but the owners would have more incentive to sell the land for houses and make money as well.
Most importantly, current residents would no longer have to deal with the negative effects of living near an industrial site.
“It’s a win-win,” Avella said.
The state senator said he brought up the idea to the Department of City Planning (DCP), who told him they were concerned that the property wouldn’t be profitable unless they allowed multiple-dwelling homes. Avella disagrees.
“All you have to do is go a block down, the new homes over there are selling for $1.6 million apiece,” he said. “At this particular point in time, it’s worth more money as housing.”
A DCP spokesperson said the agency objectively looks at any potential rezoning based on its merits and analysis of current uses.
Mark Lucaj, a representative from Vallo Transportation, said while he understands the concerns of local residents, they should have known that they were moving next to a manufacturing district in the first place.
“This is New York City, we have trucks and buses drive by everywhere. You can’t get away from that,” he said. “We have complaints about dust. Dust is a fairly reasonable expectation of living next to a manufacturing district.”
Lucaj also expressed concern that if the property was rezoned, it would be another example of New York City losing industrial space to build “luxury condominiums and luxury homes.” He said more than 100 employees could potentially lose their jobs if that happens.
“We’re complaining about dust and buses next to a manufacturing district, but the consequences implicated here are a loss of small family businesses and loss of jobs,” he said.