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Springfield Gds. protest slams Buildings Dept.

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"Who approved this?" asked H.L. Grays, a member of the Southgate Street Block Association who lives next door to a new building at 137-47 Southgate St. "Nobody comes out and inspects anymore."Grays, a real estate broker, said the Department of Buildings should have stopped the plan for a pair of semi-detached three-family houses that replaced a single-family home.The current owner, listed as HOD Construction Corp., bought the property in 2005 for $320,000, according to city Department of Finance records. The houses under construction now were started about three months ago, Grays said, and have been dogged by complaints about after-hours work. Stop-work orders have been issued and rescinded.A representative from HOD who was reached by phone Monday and refused to give his name denied that the dwellings were three-family homes. He said they were two-families, and explained the presence of a third electric meter as a separate meter for the basement."The zoning is for two family and the city and the Buildings Department gave me approval to build those houses," he said. "I'm not doing something that is illegal. This is the zoning in this neighborhood."Dozens of neighbors braved a chill wind Saturday to stand outside to protest against the house. Grays, who has lived next door for more than 20 years, said the new construction rising is ruining his low-density, residential neighborhood."I hate the builders," he said. "The builders don't care about this community."Neighbors said the higher-density housing strains the area's sewers, roads, parks and schools by increasing the population beyond what those systems can support. Others said people who buy the new homes often take on mortgages that they cannot afford, and the bank forecloses on the house."The city takes over the houses and puts welfare people in," said Thelma Cabbagestalk, a 49-year resident of the neighborhood.Grays, who is on the land use committee of Community Board 12, which covers Jamaica, wants his neighbors to speak out against the DOB's self-certification process. The widely criticized practice is intended to keep projects from bottle-necking while they wait for official reviews. Critics say unscrupulous builders abuse the system to build homes that defy the zoning laws."They're trying to take over our community, and we can stop them if we stick together," Grays said.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 174.

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