Thursday, September 17, 2009

Residents Deal With Construction Woes

Issues Include Abandoned Work Site and Zoning Question

After years of virtually unchecked development throughout the city, it is not surprising that many residents have been left feeling the negative effects of projects on their block. In recent weeks, several examples of how a resident’s quality of life can be impacted by projects at neighboring properties were raised at community meetings and in interviews with The Forum. The following is a look at problems in Maspeth with a stalled construction site and vacant house and a question in Glendale over whether a multi-family building was completed in accordance with the area’s zoning.

Abandoned Maspeth Site Becomes Dumping Ground

Mary Ann Todzia has been living next to a vacant lot at 65-61 Hull Avenue for more than four years now. While the fact that work has stalled on the project is bad enough, Todzia says her house’s foundation was damaged during construction, and the vacant lot fills up with water when it rains. To add insult to injury, the site’s construction fence is in danger of collapsing and people have began dumping bags of trash on the sidewalk in front of her house.

In June, the city Department of Buildings issued a stop work order and five violations to the owner for having a defective fence, abandoning the site and failing to safeguard it. However, despite the summonses, the area continues to be neglected, said Todzia. She registered a complaint with 311 over the trash dumped on the sidewalk but was later told that an inspector didn’t find cause to issue a violation.

“It started four years ago in July, and right now they have more than 40 violations and this guy is nowhere to be found,” said Todzia, referring to builder American Construction of Ozone Park. Due to the damage caused to her property, Todzia was forced to hire an attorney and is waiting for a court date to be set. Previously, the property featured a one-family house on a double lot. The new owner demolished the house and proceeded with plans to build two two-family homes there, but has since just completed one building.

“It’s a dumping ground. For a while now, people just throw things over,” she said of the area’s current state. “It’s ironic because you can have the Department of Buildings issue permits, go ahead and build, have the property destroyed and no one is punished for it. They’re getting violations, but what comes from them? Nothing. The guy is still in business.”

Zoning Debate in Glendale

Community leaders are questioning whether a multi-family building constructed recently on 79th Place in Glendale was built in accordance with the area’s zoning. Gary Giordano, district manager of Community Board 5, said a public hearing is scheduled on the issue at the board’s October meeting.

Attorneys for the property owner “are now in the process of answering Building Department objections to their plans and the construction that already has taken place” at 78-46 79th Place, where a single-family house previously stood, said Giordano. “As we see it, the construction that has taken place there does not meet the zoning regulations. It certainly doesn’t meet the new zoning regulations after the area was downzoned [several years ago], and I don’t think it meets the prior zoning.”

According to Walter Sanchez, chairman of the board’s Land Use Committee, the owner has applied to be grandfathered under the new zoning since regulations in the area were changed several years ago. After the DOB rejected that request, the owner filed an application for a variance with the Board of Standards and Appeals, but has since gone back to the DOB for a new opinion, according to Sanchez.

Giordano said the main problems are that the building contains too many units, is too high for the area and doesn’t include parking provisions. He expects a hearing at the October 14 meeting so that the issues can be brought into the public. “There is certainly concern that the property owner and their representatives may try to get approval from the Buildings Department and avoid the need for a BSA hearing,” he said. “So we’re looking to bring this into the open air so to speak.”

The city DOB did not respond to a request for information about this property.

Vacant House Brings Down Neighborhood

At last week’s Community Board 5 meeting, Maspeth resident Dorie Wolt complained about the condition of a vacant house at 57-12 58th Place, which she said has fallen apart due to years of neglect. “It’s a disgusting eyesore,” she said, adding that weeds have grown as tall as she is, the roof has fallen in, the basement is filled with water and animals are living inside it. “We live [near] there and this is ridiculous.”

Public records show the property was purchased by the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corp. from the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development in 2006 for $38,000. On Tuesday, GRRC President Paul Kerzner said the agency is “in the process of cleaning [the property] up.” He said a worker had been sent over to clear the property prior to the CB 5 meeting but didn’t do the job satisfactorily and promised that the land “will be cleaned up to the community’s standards.”

Regarding the future of the property, Kerzner said, “Unfortunately the zoning is so screwed up over there, it doesn’t even make sense to restore it. It’s unfortunate that the prior owner let it go to pot. We inebriated a monster over there, so it’s up in the air as to what we’re going to do with it, but obviously it will be cleaned up.”

No comments: