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By Mark Hallum

The former home of U.S. District Court Judge Nicholas Garaufis has made headlines in recent months because of backlash over renovations deemed more than excessive by neighborhood residents.

Now, the city Department of Buildings has ordered the owners to file for a new building permit before construction can continue at 218-15 40th Ave.

The original building plans showed that only the front of the house was to be renovated with additional construction.. But neighbors watched in despair back in April as the roof was torn off and the inside gutted, according to Bonnie Skala Kiladitis, who grew up across the street. Eventually the house was reduced to ground level.

Garaufis’ stately house is believed to have been built circa 1890 and was the one of the personal residences of the Lawrence family, influential members of the early Bayside community. A study conducted by historic preservation consultant Paul Graziano found the Lawrence Estate is eligible for the National and State Register of Historic Places, a recognition that carries no protection from demolition or alteration.

Kiladitis, in keeping with her father Frank Skala’s legacy of neighborhood activism, appealed to Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside), who wrote a letter to the DOB requesting that it investigate the matter and levy fines to the strictest degree.

“Our community will not stand idly on the sidelines when homeowners and developers come into our neighborhoods and deceitfully try to circumvent building codes,” Vallone said. “This type of blatant disregard of building permit requirements and deliberate over-development will never be accepted in our community.”.

A notice to revoke on the building permit was issued to the owners at the end of April, which would force them to answer objections with the DOB for renovating beyond the limits of the alt-1 permit.

A DOB spokesman has since said the owners will be required to file for a new building permit before moving forward with their building plans, and not an alteration permit.

It is not immediately clear whether any fines will be levied against the owner, a recent New Jersey transplant who identified herself by the name Lisa, but a spokesman from Vallone’s office said the councilman is drafting legislation to prevent work on sites that have a “notice to revoke” on building permits to continue while waiting for an answer to objections.

“We are currently drafting a piece of legislation that would make it so a developer/homeowner would not be allowed to continue work during the period between receiving a notice to revoke and answering the objections that warranted that notice. The bill will be introduced in the fall. We felt that receiving a notice to revoke is significant enough to warrant a stop of work. If you are allowed to continue work while awaiting to answer the objections, the notice to revoke is really more like a ‘notice to finish your work as fast as possible.’ Our goal is to give the DOB as many tools as we can to address issues like these when they come up,” the spokesman said. .

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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