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Avella rallies against hotel construction

Residents opposing the construction of a 20-story hotel in Kew Gardens added more voices to their chorus last Thursday when City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Historic Districts Council President Paul Graziano and 2009 City Council hopeful Mel Gagarin slammed the conditions at the 82nd Avenue site.

The owner of Pasta Lovers restaurant at the corner of 82nd Avenue and Queens Boulevard is building an as-of-right 20-story residential and hotel complex on the lot behind the eatery, formerly the parking lot.

Residents of Hampton House on 82nd Road, behind the lot, say the conditions at the site are unsafe and they are doing everything in their power to stop it.

"We're concerned that there's a huge open hole there and the gate keeps opening. We're upset that a kid could get in there," said Dave Hausman, who lives at Hampton House where his wife is the co-op board president. "There's no shoring around the excavation. I don't know how in hell the [city] Department of Buildings allows this to happen."

Two stop-work orders were issued July 21 for the 123-32 82nd Ave. site because it was open to the public and no plans were available at the lot when a DOB inspector visited, the agency's Web site showed.

The project also has nine Environmental Control Board violations listed on the DOB Web site, for failure to notify the DOB within 24 to 48 hours of excavation, occupation of the lot without a valid certificate of occupancy, several for defective fencing and for having the site open.

The DOB said the Queens borough office has plans on file for the project.

The two men listed as owners for the hotel project did not return calls for comment.

The owner has called the hotel project a dream of his, said Natalie Dauphin, who bought her Hampton House co-op in 2003.

"One of the owners of the restaurant came and said he's sorry. We're sorry, but we're seeing the bulldozing of our dreams," she said.

Excavation at the site began June 30, and the permits were issued July 1, according to the DOB Web site. The planned 20-story tower would block the view of north-facing windows at Hampton House and dwarf the neighboring six- to eight-story buildings on the street.

"A 21-story building is inappropriate. Even though we're off a major street, that doesn't give the city carte blanche to build," Avella said.

"Why is the city allowing this to exist with no plans? There should be such a penalty for building without plans," Avella was saying just as a DOB car drove past the rally. "They shouldn't be allowed to start construction."

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