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Elmhurst landmark recognized for Victorian facelift

The building at the corner of 51st Avenue and Broadway was one of the recipients of the Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award.The cost of the project was $400,000, according to Kaitsen Woo, principal of Kaitsen Woo Architect, P.C., the Manhattan-based firm that was contracted for the restoration.The hall, erected in 1735, is the oldest vernacular Colonial Anglical structure in the city, the conservancy said."By preserving the Old Parish Hall, we have saved not only one of the few remaining structures from the Colonial Period in New York City but also preserved an emblem of the continuity of life in our city," Woo said "It looks great. Everybody loves it," said Carlo J. Saavedra, senior warden for the church.Decades of neglect and inappropriate repairs led the hall to fall into a state of distress and disrepair causing water damage, Woo said. As part of the restoration, Woo said his firm replaced "failing" asphalt roof shingles with newer asphalt singles. In the 1960s, asbestos wall shingles were installed, but Woo restored older wood shingles of the late 1800s to the building. The older shingles were underneath the newer shingles but were still in "pretty good shape," Woo said. Shoring of the roof's interior trusses was also needed because of water damage.A large portion of the funding for the project was secured through a $150,000 loan from the conservancy and a $180,000 grant from the state Department of Parks and Recreation. The church itself raised $80,000 for the project, Woo said. Another $500,000 would be needed for restoration of the church's interior, according to Woo.The conservancy also honored City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) with the Legislative Leadership Award for his sponsorship of the "Avella Bill."The legislation allows the Landmarks Preservation Commission to bypass the State Supreme Court and levy fines on landlords who are found to neglect city landmarks and historic district buildings to the point where the structure of the building deteriorates. Seeking relief in State Supreme Court was both time-consuming and costly, Avella said, which gave him the idea to introduce the bill more than 15 years ago. It has been nearly two months since the bill was passed amid the concerns of Council members and religious groups who were not sure how places of worship would be able to comply with the bill due to the struggle to raise funds for repairs."It was a tough fight," Avella said.

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