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Richmond Hill group hopes city will preserve its history

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Ivan Mrakovcic, vice president of the society, wrote Landmarks Preservation Commissioner Robert Tierney appealing for help for residents' efforts to preserve their Victorian neighborhood.

"Although we realize none of this history is news to you, we are greatly concerned with the commission's inaction to our recent as well as not-so-recent requests for implementation of an historic district," wrote Mrakovcic, who is also a member of Community Board 9.

"Such inaction is, in the opinion of our membership, neighbors and representatives unconscionable."

Mrakovcic requested a meeting to review the request to establish a Richmond Hill historic district. He said the two previous commissioners of the Landmarks Preservation Commission had dropped the ball in attempting to establish a historic zone in Richmond Hill.

The society said the Landmarks Commission in response to previous requests for a historic district had dispatched field representatives who studied parts of Richmond Hill that were mistakenly excluded from the proposed historic zone. Mrakovcic said these errors set back the society's efforts toward making a better case to the city.

Tierney did not return repeated calls from the TimesLedger newspapers for comment.

Nancy Cataldi, president of the Richmond Hill Historical Society, said the fight to establish a historic district in Richmond Hill has been an uphill battle despite the support of City Council members Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills) and Dennis Gallagher (D-Ridgewood).

Cataldi said she is hoping northeast Queens residents fighting for a similar district in Douglaston Hill will awaken the city Landmarks Commission to the plight of Queens homeowners trying to preserve the characters of their neighborhoods.

"Maybe now they will start opening up their eyes," Cataldi said. "These are our neighborhoods, we pay the taxes. Why should we have to put up with something where other people are deciding?"

During the past two years, the historical society worked to landmark The Republican Club building with the city and oppose what it sees as overdevelopment projects on 110th Street just off of the downtown area. Members had hoped these fights would encourage the city to grant the society's request to establish a historic district in the area.

Mrakovcic wrote in his letter that the society has scaled down its proposal to make a historic district in Richmond Hill from the original area from Forest Park down to Liberty Avenue to only including portions of downtown Richmond Hill and thoroughfares like 110th Street.

"The commission has established historic districts and 'special' regional districts throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn: we in Richmond Hill need one now," Mrakovcic wrote. "We are confident that you will agree that, in a city of immigrants, no real progress can be made unless we have a strong reverence for the past: we must know the past to appreciate the present, and plan for the future."

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 156.

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