Kew Gardens apartment plans nixed

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After planning for nearly three years to build a 10-unit, three story apartment complex on what is now an empty lot next to PS 99 in Kew Gardens, K&K Realty developers has abandoned its plans, due in part to considerable opposition from Community Board 9 and the owners of an annex to the school.

The property, located at 80-15 Lefferts Blvd., is now up for sale for $950,000 by First Choice Realty, which is handling the sale for K&K Realty. It was put back on the market after the city Department of Buildings told the developers that it would have to apply for a new permit in order to proceed with building, the agency said.

Attempts to reach the developers for comment were unsuccessful.

According to Ilyse Fink, spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings, the developers had begun working under a permit which allowed them to alter an existing building. They crossed the line of what is allowable with the alterations permit when they completely demolished the one-story building which existed on the property, she said.

“You can do demolition work under an alteration, but you have to leave a certain amount of the old building,” said Fink. “They exceeded the scope of an alteration.”

The decision to require an additional permit came about after community members and PS 99 parents complained to the Buildings Department not only about the legality of the construction, but also about the safety, given that one of the walls that the developers would be using for construction was a common wall shared by the annex, said Mary Ann Carey, the district manager of Community Board 9’s Buildings Committee.

“The wall could have fallen down, school children could’ve been buried under the debris,” said Carey.

According to Sylvia Hack, the president of the Kew Gardens Improvement Association, Bell Realty, the owner of PS 99’s annex building, went to court and sought an injunction until the developers could show that the drilling and construction on the shared wall would be safe.

“This is not just a bad design, this is not just illegal, you’re dealing with the safety of several hundred children,” said Hack, who urged community members and PS 99 parents to write letters and make phone calls to the buildings commissioner.

While Hack said that the developer had blatantly violated the legal bounds of his permit, Fink said that the violation was more technical.

“It’s not entirely wrong, and it’s not entirely right,” said Fink.

When community members met with K&K Realty to voice their concerns over drilling and construction during school hours, the developers said they would work during the summer and would obtain the special permit required to work at night and on weekends, she said. Community activists were not convinced, however, that the situation would work out.

“There are after-school programs in the school. You couldn’t tell when somebody was going to be in the building,” said Carey.

Ron Levine, a spokesman for the district’s schools, said the district had not lobbied to block construction but was concerned over the safety of the students.

“All we do is try to ensure that our youngsters have a safe learning environment,” he said. “The parents take a position based on what they see.”

Community members said they hoped that PS 99, which serves some 450 kindergarten through second-grade students, would acquire the small property in the future, so that they could use it as a playground.

Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 155.

Posted 7:24 pm, October 10, 2011
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