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Vernon Blvd. development causes street woes for LIC

It was touted in real estate magazines for years and renderings show two glass monoliths, but the current reality for a construction site in Hunters Point is a lot less glamorous.

“What we have now is Lake Vernon Boulevard,” Community Board 2 Chairman Joseph Conley said of 44-02 Vernon Blvd. “It is huge. You wouldn’t believe how much water is in this pit.”

The six-acre property was formerly the East River Tennis Club, but plans to turn it into a condominium complex date back to at least 1989.

Plans for the complex, called River East, included two 29-story towers and four eight-story buildings comprising 910 residential units, 11,750 square feet of commercial retail and 115,000 square feet of parking space.

But in what Conley blames on the real estate bust that came with the collapse of the financial markets last year, little progress has been made at the site and the accumulated water is threatening neighboring buildings.

The city Department of Education’s book depository sits next door to the site, and the agency complained to the DOB in April after staff noticed the water was pooling against the wall of the municipal building.

A hearing was held June 30 and a default fine of $2,500 was imposed on property owner Vernon Realty Holdings by the city Environmental Control Board for failure to maintain the site.

The board’s ruling noted the water had pooled along the length of the DOE building and was more than one foot deep.

Calls to Marshall Weisman, a representative for property owner Vernon Realty, were not returned by press time Tuesday.

A spokeswoman for the city Department of Buildings said inspectors visited the site in June and issued a violation for an expired work permit. The company has paid the fine and renewed the permit, she said. But the property has gone on the DOB’s “stalled sites” list, and repeat inspections over the past several months revealed water still standing inside the fence.

The DOB has requested that an engineer come out to the site to determine whether the water is undermining the neighboring buildings. If nothing is done, the DOB will either prosecute or order the city to perform the work, the spokeswoman said.

Work at the site was progressing as recently as February, when the state Department of Environmental Conservation approved an application to pump treated groundwater into the East River. Conley said construction workers had started that process, but no activity had been evident at the site in months.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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