‘McMansion’ construction raises Doug residents’ ire

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A crowd gathered Friday outside a large new home under construction in Douglaston to protest what Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said were loopholes in building regulations that allowed out-of-scale houses on relatively small lots.

Several dozen residents, one holding a sign that said “McMansions not welcome,” assembled on the corner of 51st Avenue and 244th Street, where a large peach brick house with red trim appeared nearly finished.

“I’ve never seen such an obnoxious sight,” said Avella, pointing out the large air-conditioning ducts on the house’s roof that neighbors feared would be too noisy. “This is the type of thing you would see on a hotel.”

Douglaston Civic Association President Eliott Socci, who vowed to study the building’s plans to make sure they conformed with the construction, said “we are in a bind because we cannot fight anything that is termed legal.”

The house’s owner and developer, Yong Quan Feng, said the house was within the size requirements for a 50-by-100 lot and the air-conditioning units were permitted on top of the house.

“We are not overbuilding the house on the property,” said Feng, who intends to live there with his parents, wife and two children.

Feng said the air-conditioning units need to be on the roof because there is not enough rear yard space for their steel supports and their placement on the roof would be less noisy than if they were on the ground floor.

“They are not very nice to us,” he said of the neighbors. “They keep dropping the garbage into the yard.”

City Buildings Department records show 18 complaints have been filed on the project. Two violations were issued for work without a permit and one was for construction work outside permitted hours.

In response to neighbors’ questions, Feng said, “I tried to explain to them many times this is not a church — this is a private house.”

At Friday’s rally, Avella criticized the practice by developers of writing off ambiguously labeled areas on a home’s plans as “recreation space” that do not count toward the homes’ total square footage.

“The quality of life on blocks like this, neighborhoods like this, is simply being destroyed overnight,” said Avella, who has recommended closing the loopholes in a rezoning proposal to the Department of City Planning. “We’ve got to change these codes immediately.”

Reach reporter Ayala Ben-Yehuda by e-mail at or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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