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Doug Hill finally placed on Landmarks calendar

After nearly 15 years an application to designate Douglaston Hill as a city landmark area was put on the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s calendar Tuesday, setting the stage for the neighborhood to become a historic...

By Ayala Ben-Yehuda

The waiting is finally over.

After nearly 15 years an application to designate Douglaston Hill as a city landmark area was put on the Landmarks Preservation Commission’s calendar Tuesday, setting the stage for the neighborhood to become a historic district.

The so-called calendaring clears the way for a public hearing on the conservation of Douglaston Hill’s turn-of-the-century homes, an effort begun by the neighborhood’s preservationists in 1989.

The long-awaited move to be placed on the agency’s calendar represents a de facto approval of the historic district by the commission, Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said.

“The practice has been once it gets calendared, it does get approved down the road,” Avella said.

The action also puts a hold on demolition permits issued by the city Department of Buildings for 40 days, a stipulation that many residents had hoped would save the architecturally significant houses in the area from destruction by developers.

Neighbors picketed outside a 1901 Queen Anne house at 240-35 43rd Ave. that went up for sale last fall amid rumors it was going to be torn down.

Bill Sievers, vice president of the Douglaston-Little Neck Historical Society, said of the district’s probable designation, “I’m delighted. It’s something very positive and one of the things that we have really been struggling to achieve.”

Landmarks Preservation Commission Chairman Robert Tierney and his staff met with residents at the Zion Episcopal Church last month and heard entreaties from people who wanted to make sure their properties were included in the district.

The district as proposed includes 31 homes within jaggedly drawn borders of the Long Island Rail Road, parts of 240th Street, 42nd and 43rd avenues, 242nd and 243rd streets.

The office of state Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) released a statement saying “because of pressure brought by Sen. Padavan and area residents, the commission has given the application its highest priority. Sen. Padavan and the commission have been working together closely to advance the matter.”

Tuesday’s meeting was to be followed by a public hearing on a date to be determined at which members of the public can speak for or against the landmarking.

“It’s a shame it took this long,” Avella said. “They never gave up.”

Preservationist Paul Graziano, who has been pressing for Douglaston Hill’s designation, said the process had been dragged out by two factors: past Queens borough presidents’ ties to developers and the commission’s bias against detached houses.

“They have a 1960s mentality of what historic preservation is, which are brownstones and rowhouses,” said Graziano, a situation he said resulted in only seven suburban-style historic districts in the city out of a total of 82 districts.

Under landmarking, property owners must obtain permission from the Landmarks Preservation Commission to make changes other than ordinary repairs and certain interior alterations.

“Landmarking doesn’t stop areas from being developed,” said Graziano, “but it does control development much more closely than zoning or planning does.”

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

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