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Douglaston family wary of nearby construction

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Sitting in their backyard on a hot June afternoon, Felicia and John Nicodemo did not spend their time admiring a serene view of Little Neck Bay, only a stone's throw away at the end of a quiet Douglaston Manor street.

Instead, the couple and their daughter, who are longtime residents of the Manor, had to view a construction site next door, which they said was coming too close to their property for comfort.

"This whole thing should never have been started or accepted," said John Nicodemo of the home being built on a lot that had long been vacant.

"I like the idea of the house, but this is enormous," Felicia Nicodemo said.

A city Department of Buildings spokesman and Community Board 11 District Manager Anne Marie Boranian said the house - which has been under construction for several months - was in compliance with building codes.

An architect for the project at 235-16 Westmoreland Place defended the project and said it complied with city codes.

Community Board 11 Chairman Bernard Haber said last month he was aware of the project and had gone to see the site. Haber said the new home was one of three being built in the Manor which may be a cause for concern. Bob Coddington, president of the Douglaston Manor Association, a homeowners group, said the house was in compliance with deed restrictions for the area.

The family said they were shocked to see the large house erected with little room left on the lot for a yard. The couple also said the home's descending driveway was so steep and close to their property line they feared for people's safety.

Both Nicodemos said the lot under construction had been vacant during the 23 years they have lived next door.

Felicia Nicodemo said she became concerned one morning when she found that the soil about an inch beyond her property line had been almost completely removed.

That day, she said, she awoke to find only a thin orange-colored wire fence separating her granddaughter's play equipment from a steep dropoff into the construction site.

"We just don't want people getting hurt," she said.

Work on the new home's driveway has taken away a large piece of land just an inch away from the Nicodemo's property line, leaving their grass hanging over the edge of a drop of several feet. A thicker wooden fence was put up the next day, Felicia Nicodemo said.

She also said she has seen the construction workers digging into her property from underground. She said she had refused requests from the contractors to buy her property to expand the project.

The Nicodemos and their daughter, Anne McGuirk, said they were also worried about the proposed home's septic system. The western edge of Douglaston Manor is near sea level, not connected to the city's sewer system and prone to flooding, they stressed.

But an architect for the project said everything about the new home was in compliance with city codes and the building would not be out of character with the neighborhood.

"I don't think it's too big for the lot," said Carlos DeFonseca of DeFonseca Architects. "It's in compliance. It's going to look like it's been there from the beginning. It will enhance the area."

DeFonseca, who has offices in both Long Island City and Garden City, L.I., said the lot may appear smaller than it is because it is shallow in the back.

But the building's compliance with city codes has not made the Nicodemo family feel any better about the project, they said.

"We're out here keeping constant vigil" on the project, McGuirk said.

Felicia Nicodemo said she was aware that the city has given its approval of the project, but "if they affect your way of life, that's not fair to anybody."

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