Today’s news:

New Douglaston homes raise fear over wetlands

Construction has begun on at least four private homes on a patch of vacant land north of the Douglaston Long Island Rail Road adjacent to a wetlands area on the shore of Alley Creek.

Permits and wooden fencing have been put up at the subdivided lot, which occupies almost the entire south side of 41st Avenue between 233rd and 234th streets.

According to city Buildings Department records, permits have been issued for four three-story houses ranging in size from 3,771 to 4,056 square feet.

The buildings each have an occupancy classification for one or two families and will contain two parking spaces totaling about 300 square feet per house.

Neither the buildings’ developer, Long Island-based Merrick Homes, nor the architect, Forest Hills-based Gerald Caliendo, returned calls for comment.

“Obviously, we’re very disappointed that this construction is going up,” said Walter Mugdan, a Little Neck resident and president of the Udalls Cove Preservation Committee, which promotes environmental causes all over the Douglaston-Little Neck area. “It’s nibbling away at the wetlands...the accumulated impacts are very big.”

Mugdan said increasing the amount of impervious surface area on formerly marshy ground would cause sediments and polluted runoff, such as oil from the new driveways, to wash directly into the nearby wetlands instead of being absorbed into the ground.

Mugdan said he was told by an official from the state Department of Environmental Conservation that DEC permits were issued about a month ago.

“I was told, to my disappointment, that for minor projects they are not required to give any public notice when applications are filed,” said Mugdan.

He said special conditions were usually placed by DEC before permits were issued on the development to minimize impervious surfaces.

DEC officials did not return calls for comment as of press time.

It was unclear under whose jurisdiction the patch of land under construction fell before development began.

A city Parks Department spokeswoman said the land did not belong to Parks, although a wooden post at the site featured a leaf symbol similar to what appears on the department’s property.

Little Neck resident Kevin Gaffney, who grew up in nearby Douglas Manor, noticed the development from the LIRR station and walked down to 41st Avenue to take a look.

“I always thought this was part of the park,” said Gaffney.

“I was hoping to see a DEC sign for wetlands rehabilitation.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

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