A Richmond Hill community leader is beginning to worry about the survival of The Republican Club building after more than five months of legal battles have prevented preservationists from restoring the 85-year-old site.
Nancy Cataldi, president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, said she was driving by the city landmarked building on Lefferts Boulevard between Hillside Avenue and Jamaica Avenue when she noticed several men inside the facility. She said she decided to go inside to make sure the men were not destroying or robbing the property.
Cataldi said she became alarmed when she looked up and saw a leak in the facility's roof.
"Water was coming right through into the entryway," she said. "That leak was not there six months ago."
One of the men told Cataldi that there were plans to demolish the building and replace it with a fitness center even though the structure is a city landmark.
Lawyers for Munir, The Republican Club and JER Revenue Services, the company that holds a tax lien on the club property, have been entangled in a legal battles since January to determine the rightful owner of the building. Ownership of the site was brought into question several months ago after an unknown party filed a petition in State Supreme Court in Queens, effectively asking a judge to undo the September auction of the party's headquarters to Munir.
Munir declined to comment Tuesday when asked about the status of his ownership of The Republican Club building.
During a public hearing Dec. 17, the city Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to make the 1908 building a landmark, preserving it from demolition or alteration, said Sherida Paulsen, commission chairwoman.
The property will remain a city landmark regardless of who is the owner under city law.
Cataldi said this year's heavy snow and rainstorms had damaged the Republican Club building's roof and unique internal structures such as the rare tin, embossed roof.
"Everything is rotting at this point," she said. "The building needs to be fixed soon. It is worse than it was (several months ago)."
From his North Haven, Conn. office, John Chilson, managing director of JER, said the city sold a tax lien to his company on the property after club members had accumulated more than $330,000 in back taxes. The property then went up for sale in a September foreclosure auction and was sold to Faizulmunir Kazi.
Cataldi and other community members interested in preserving the building have long wanted to buy the Republican Club site but have lacked the funds.
Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.
©2003 Community News Group
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