A Queens legislator and members of historical preservation organizations are up in arms over proposed alterations to a 100-year-old farmhouse in Douglaston they believe could threaten the character of the home and its neighborhood.
At a news conference last Friday, the group called on the city Landmarks Preservation Commission to move swiftly to designate the Douglaston Historic District Extension, which includes several properties and the farmhouse, as a historic landmark.
“Douglaston is one of those unique neighborhoods that has existed for a long, long time and should be preserved,” state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said at the conference, held in front of the house, at 38-60 Douglaston Pkwy.
He and others said the borough is often given short shrift when it comes to landmarking.
“We see a lot of promises but not a lot of action,” said Henry Euler, vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association.
A number of Douglaston houses, many dating back to the mid-19th century, are within a historic district, meaning the LPC must approve any alterations to the structure. Avella and others fought for an extension of the district to include additional homes, and although the LPC put the extension proposal on its agenda in 2008, it has not yet landmarked the properties.
Avella said the new owner of the farmhouse recently submitted plans to the city Department of Buildings that would “significantly alter the character of the house.”
But Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant and supporter of the Douglaston extension, said the permit application was too vague to know what may be in store.
“It could mean anything,” he said, saying the application was for vertical and horizontal enlargement of the property.
Avella added that any alterations submitted to the DOB may be changed or amended later.
The owner of the property could not be reached for comment.
Avella said he would make sure the DOB followed proper procedures of notifying the LPC about the proposed changes, saying the commission is allowed to review alterations to properties awaiting a landmarking decision.
LPC Director of Communications Elisabeth de Bourbon said the DOB followed the proper procedure. She also said the LPC is actively considering the proposal to extend the historic district and is continuing to talk with affected property owners and the wider community, but she did not say if there was a specific time frame for landmarking the extension.
A spokesman for City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), whose district includes Douglaston, said preserving the character of the neighborhood needs to be carefully weighed against the rights of property owners.
“People in this district work so hard to be able to buy their homes, so we have to be careful about restricting their rights,” spokesman Kevin Ryan said. “But we don’t want to lose the beauty in the neighborhood.”
Reach reporter Karen Frantz by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4538.
©2013 Community News Group
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