Councilman Tony Avella and several Flushing activists visited Maspeth on Saturday, December 2, 2006 to express support for JPCA's fight against overdevelopment. The notorious developer, Tommy Huang, who destroyed the RKO Keith's Theater on Main Street, has built an illegally constructed house at 57-39 Mazeau Street.
"When will the DOB say to Tommy Huang that he can't build anymore in this city because he is incapable of following the law?" asked Councilman Tony Avella.
Jerry Rotondi, Chair of the Committee to Save the RKO Keith's Theater stated, "This man is a convicted criminal and he needs to be shut down permanently."
Mr. Toy, a resident of Elmhurst and a victim of Mr. Huang, then came forward. He spoke of the trouble that began when Huang purchased and excavated a property adjacent to his. The underpinning caused the foundation of his house to crack. Mr. Toy sued Huang and won, but Huang has been relentlessly appealing, which has forced Toy to pay astronomical legal fees. "Even if you win against him, you lose," Toy said.
Tony Nunziato, Chair of the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force, blamed the local elected officials for the out-of-character buildings being erected throughout the area. "If a policeman takes a free slice of pizza, the city charges him with graft," he said. "But our council members are allowed to take thousands of dollars from developers looking to destroy our communities. There is something definitely wrong with that picture."
Just after Mr. Nunziato's comments, two police officers in an unmarked car arrived at the scene of the peaceful press conference and chastised the participants for standing just off of the curb. Sgt. Kohley of the 104th precinct first said that Captain Scott Shanley called him to the scene, then said it was Patrol Borough North, then said "no one" instructed him to go there. (JPCA has spoken with Captain Shanley and been told that he will get to the bottom of it.) JPCA believes an elected official whom they have criticized called in the complaint. "This is pure harassment!" said one Mazeau Street resident.
Directly across the street from the Huang house, another blatant violation has occurred: a garage was converted into a house without any permits. There are no utilities in the structure and the building sits on no foundation.
Urban planning consultant Paul Graziano explained that under the current zoning, the illegally converted garage could be made to conform to the R-4 designation. The Huang house, if the top floor were shaved off, might also be able to be legalized. "The problem is the mismatch of zoning as well as the illegal building and the city is responsible for both of these issues. The person that has to be dealt with is the mayor who sets the budget for both of these under-funded and understaffed agencies," he said.
JPCA President Robert Holden said he was disappointed in the Department of Buildings for lax enforcement and the Department of City Planning for failing to rezone Maspeth, Middle Village and Glendale in a timely manner. He said, "[JPCA] collected all the information for them and they have been sitting on it for over a year, telling us that they don't have enough staff."
Manny Caruana, neighborhood activist, blasted a local bank. "There is a bank that carries the name of this town – Maspeth Federal – that lends out money left and right to the developers who are destroying this community," he said.
JPCA Executive Board Members are planning to testify at the Department of Buildings hearing in Manhattan on December 4th, as Council Members Dennis Gallagher and James Oddo would not allow them to speak at a similar meeting held in Glendale on June 21st.
More photos of the press conference can be viewed here:
Watch videos of the press conference: