Thursday, September 11, 2008

Civic Accuses Developer of Violating Stop Work Order

Residents, JPCA, Continue Battle with Huang

By Conor Greene

Police were called to a Mazeau Street after work at a construction site there continued despite a stop work order, according to a local civic group.

Members of the Juniper Park Civic Association’s executive board recently observed workers on property at 57-39 Mazeau Street, where notorious developer Tommy Huang is building a multi-family house. Residents say the empty lot adjacent to the house construction is also owned by Huang, and is being used as a storage area for
heavy equipment.

The property has been the site of numerous violations. Earlier this year, the city forced Huang to remove the top floor of what was a four-story house after being pressured by the civic and Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside). The city Department of Buildings (DOB) issued a stop work order, which was partially rescinded recently so that the developer could clean up the site.

On Saturday, residents heard loud banging at the property at about 8:30 a.m. and saw several people trying to break the lock on the security fence. They called 911, and police responded quickly since it was a possible break in attempt, according to JPCA member Manny Caruana, who lives near the scene.

“Apparently what happened was, [the developer] has been storing heavy equipment on the premises,” said Caruana. The workers claimed they were there to clean up, but were moving heavy equipment from the site, according to Caruana.

“It’s being used as a transfer site for heavy equipment,” he said. “They do this all time. It’s not clean-up. They sent five guys there to load a truck and leave, but there’s nothing left to clean up.”

After several years of pressuring the city to force Huang to comply with building codes, residents are starting to lose patience, said Caruana. Several houses across from the site have been put up for sale, and another next to Huang’s property has been allowed to fall into disrepair. “People are getting fed up with this. It’s an ongoing battle, the thing is ugly as hell, and it was built illegally.”

While police responded to the scene, they are not equipped to deal with Buildings Department issues, said JPCA member Tony Nunziato, who is challenging Marge Markey for her seat on the state Assembly. “They come five hours later and they don’t know the regulations,” he said. “The DOB knows this area has been a problem for two years. The city has to have a system [allowing] people who are watching the developers to call and have an inspector come down within an hour.”

Huang’s checkered past includes a conviction for allowing 200 gallons of oil to spill into the basement of the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theater in Flushing and then lying about cleaning it up. As a result of Huang’s repeated violations, officials including Avella have demanded that the city refuse to issue him any future building permits, a request which has been ignored.

“The city has to step up to the plate and watch what is going on in the neighborhood,” said Nunziato, adding that the DOB must put an end to the self-certification process. “Where is the government that is supposed to protect people? Is it a payoff, or total ignorance by people who don’t want to work?”

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