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DEP demolishes illegal housing to make way for Rockaway plant

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A plot of partially developed land that sits between a school and a water treatment center has been an eyesore for the Far Rockaway residents who live nearby it, community leaders said.

The city Department of Environmental Protection now has begun demolishing the remains of an illegal housing development on Beach 104th Street and Beach Channel Drive. In its place, the agency will build a new storage facility for its wastewater treatment plant located down the block.

City Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Howard Beach) said the demolition was been a long time coming for the neighborhood because what was left of the construction was sticking out like a sore thumb and ruining the quality of the community.

“We’re glad this is getting done,” he said.

The land was originally the lot for a catering hall in the 1990s, but the owner decided to put it up for sale, according to Jonathan Gaska, district manger for Community Board 14. In 2006, the city made a request to the community board to buy the land and while the board had OK’d the project during the Uniform Land Use Review Procedure, the owner sold the lot to a developer in 2007, Gaska said.

“Everyone in the community was mystified because we approved the ULURP,” he said.

The community board filed several complaints with the city Department of Buildings since the developer was building residential properties in a non-residential zone, but he kept on building the houses, Gaska said. By the time the city shut down the construction, most of the houses were partially built and left there by the developer.

The space is right next to The Scholars’ Academy elementary school and residents have complained that it has been distracting students with its smell and decrepit look. DEP officials said they planned the demolition work around the school’s off-time during the summer and that it would be completed by the fall.

When construction is finished sometime next year, the school will also get an additional benefit when the DEP widens Beach 104th Street.

“The saga of this site has been going on for five years. We’re glad it’s almost over,” Gaska said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at ipereira@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 6:14 pm, October 10, 2011
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