By John Tozzi

“The strongest thing that people are feeling is that we want to maintain the look of the community, and if this is what it takes, this is what it takes,” said Paul DiBenedetto, a board member of the Bayside Historical Society.He is part of a movement, spurred by a 10-year building boom, that wants to keep Bayside's housing stock dating back to the early 1900s from being torn down and replaced with new, larger homes.Some 60 people met at the historical society's Fort Totten headquarters last Thursday for a presentation on six potential historic districts in Bayside.”I want to jar you back into why we're here tonight,” said Paul Graziano, the urban planner who has been one of the loudest voices for preservation in northeast Queens.A slideshow that Graziano presented showed dozens of historic homes in Bayside, some written over with bold red text: “Demolished.” The next shot would show the structure that replaced it, eliciting gasps from some in the audience. Much of the recent style of construction would no longer be permitted in a historic district. Homeowners in such districts need approval from the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission to do any exterior work beyond normal repairs. Most interior changes do not require approval unless the changes affect the outside of the building. Those kinds of restrictions did not interest many homeowners in Queens for decades, but the development boom has made some look for more powerful limits on building than the zoning code provides, preservationists said.”Development is knocking on their doors and taking away their neighborhoods,” said Simeon Bankoff, the executive director of the Manhattan-based Historic Districts Council, a preservation group. Still, designating neighborhoods like DiBenedetto's Bell Court, east of Bell Boulevard between 35th Avenue and the Long Island Rail Road, takes a consensus from the neighborhood to even begin the long process.”You need to take the temperature of your particular area,” Graziano said. “If the temperature is right, I think they're going to try to go the route that Broadway-Flushing did.”Graziano led the campaign to get that neighborhood on national and state historic lists, but the city has not acted on the proposal. Bell Court, Broadway-Flushing, and Douglas Manor — another historic district – were all communities planned by the Rickert-Finlay company in the early 1900s.Reach reporter John Tozzi by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 174.



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