Douglaston blaze destroys home

Flame and smoke pour out of the home on Douglaston Parkway. Photo by Wayne Saville
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Years of construction were set back by a devastating three-alarm fire in Douglaston, leaving future plans for a historic home up in smoke.

The family who owned the house, at 39-12 Douglaston Pkwy., said they were unsure about their next move, but hoped to see their vision through for a larger extension built onto the property.

“We already put so much money into this extension,” said Jean Huang, wife of homeowner David Huang. “We were trying to make the house bigger for our family. I hope we can finish the job.”

A three-alarm fire severely damaged the extension to the farmhouse, which was built in the late 1800s, before spreading to the inside and threatening neighboring residences before it was doused by emergency responders, fire officials said. According to FDNY Battalion Chief James Doherty, the fire ravaged through the unoccupied home and required a tremendous amount of resources to be extinguished, leaving two firefighters with minor injuries.

“The house is destroyed,” Doherty said. “The whole area of construction is fully gutted. The front that was the original home is fully gutted, too.”

According to the FDNY, torch work being done on some pipes inside the extension caused the accidental fire just before 8 p.m. Aug. 14.

Huang said her family’s basic insurance did not cover the extent of the damage on the home’s rear 80-foot yard extension, which has been under construction since 2007. Since the family decided to upgrade the property with an extension almost four times the size of the small home, Community Board 11 officials said the surrounding community had trouble accepting the renovations.

“People were concerned with the size of the extension and how it would affect water runoff and drainage,” said CB 11 District Manager Susan Seinfeld. “We received a number of complaints and letters over the years with opposition from neighbors.”

Jim McCann lives next door to the home and said his residence also suffered fire damage, resulting in five days of cleaning smoke and soot and the loss of some clothing and bedding. He led a charge to landmark the Douglaston Parkway home nearly four years ago, but a divided neighborhood had nixed the notion.

“Landmarking the property would have maintained the attitude of these old houses along Douglaston Parkway,” McCann said. “We wouldn’t have had this monstrosity happen.”

The city Department of Buildings recorded a total of 44 complaints filed against David Huang throughout the building’s construction — many of which CB 11 said were rectified.

“I love the Douglaston community, but I did not know there would be so many complaints,” Jean Huang said. “They didn’t like what we were trying to do to the house.”

Tom Greaney lives across the street from the fire-ravaged home and said he would have enjoyed the farmhouse’s preservation, but progress was inevitable. When the fire started, he said he heard two alarming popping sounds come from inside the burning house.

“I would have loved to have had the original house that was there. It was gorgeous,” Greaney said. “But I know that there has to be progress. You just have to hope it would keep in the same architectural honesty of what is around it.”

Christina Santucci contributed to this story.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 10:32 pm, August 22, 2012
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