Developer Alters Building to Comply with Zoning Codes
Civic and Councilman Avella Had Pushed for DOB Action
The Juniper Park Civic Association is today claiming victory over notorious developer, Tommy Huang, (destroyer of the officially landmarked RKO Keith’s Theater of Flushing) who illegally constructed a house at 57-39 Mazeau Street in Maspeth in 2006. The house was built contrary to plans presented to and approved by the NYC Department of Buildings and in violation of the R4-1 zoning for the area. Huang had demolished the garage on the premises without a permit and then constructed a 4-story, 3-family house on the site. He has now removed the top story and a section on the side of the house that encroached on the lot next door.
“This is a big victory for Maspeth because it shows unscrupulous developers that the community is watching and they won’t be able to get away with this type of action,” said Robert Holden, JPCA President.
“This is like a cancer in the community. Once the first illegal building is constructed, others are sure to follow,” said Tony Nunziato, Chair of the Maspeth-Middle Village Task Force. “I am glad that the Department of Buildings has kept on top of this situation and has forced the developer’s hand.”
The permit for the property was revoked by Department of Buildings Queens Borough Commissioner Derek Lee after a November 15, 2006 audit which found 23 objections, including non-compliance with the R4-1 zoning code and misuse of the Community Facilities Provision of the zoning code. The Juniper Park Civic Association held rallies at the site in December 2006 and December 2007 with Councilman Tony Avella, Chair of the City Council’s Zoning Subcommittee, who has also been keeping a watchful eye on the property. Together, he and JPCA pushed for an audit of the property and called for the house to either be legalized to conform with current zoning codes or be forcibly demolished by the City.
The NYC Department of Buildings again audited the site on July 6, 2007. They still found objections at that time requiring correction.
The Huang House before alteration.
“Right off the bat, you can tell this house is in non-compliance because R4-1 is a contextual zone that allows for no more than 2-family houses,” explained Paul Graziano, urban planner and President of the Historic Districts Council.
Manny Caruana, JPCA Board Member and Community Board 5 Member, lives in the vicinity and was the first person to take notice and report the problems at the site to the Department of Buildings. “It took a long time to get results, and we only got this far because neither we, Tony Avella nor DOB caved in. None of us stopped watching what was going on here,” he said. “The fact that Huang has been forced to comply and not just pay a fine restores a little bit of my faith in DOB.”
The Queens Civic Congress (QCC) has also been following this story from the beginning. “Queens Civic Congress calls on all would-be violators of the City's Zoning laws and its Building code to be on notice,” stated Corey Bearak, President of QCC. “No excuses. Either comply with the law and the code or any illegal structure you build will need to be cut down to its rightful and legal size. This simple message should resonate throughout the industry and we welcome this intervention by the Department of Buildings and thank Commissioner Robert LiMandri for following through on this and many other matters brought to his attention. Special recognition and thank you goes to Juniper Park Civic Association for fighting for the community and never letting up.”
“It’s about time that DOB listened to the community and forced notorious developers like Tommy Huang to conform to the building and zoning codes,” said Councilman Tony Avella. “It still is a shame that the community has to be the ones to force the DOB to enforce its own regulations.”
The house currently has a full stop-work order on it – with today’s date (attached). It was briefly lifted to allow for the correction of violating conditions. Huang must prove that the house is in compliance with all DOB directives before being issued a permit to finish the structure.
JPCA and Councilman Avella will continue to monitor the progress of work at the site.