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Neighborhood gets behind extension of historic district

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"We surveyed this area last year as part of our effort to designate more historic districts," Kate Daly, the organization's executive director, told attendees. "This is the first step -- the information-sharing stage," she explained.The meeting was occasioned by requests from the Douglaston and Little Neck Historical Society and state Sen. Frank Padavan's (R-Bellerose) office, who were both eager to see the 19th and early 20th century buildings preserved. Among them are 17 homes, PS 98 and the Douglaston Community Church.Douglaston is already home to the Douglaston Historic District, which encompasses Douglas Manor and was established on June 24, 1997. The buildings now under consideration abut Douglaston Parkway in the vicinity of 39th Avenue.William Siewers, vice president of the historical society, said he was glad many meeting participants pointed to the dangers of Douglaston becoming overrun by McMansions. "What I am able to do now is tell people they'd be living in a completely different area" without landmarking protection, he said. "It was tough going because people had heard stories and exaggerations" about problems with making home modifications under LPC regulations for landmarked districts before the meeting, he said. Sarah Carroll, the LPC's director of preservation, sought to allay those fears at the meeting. She explained that once an area is landmarked, homeowners are not required to make any changes, and that 90 to 95 percent of applications to make home modifications are approved by the agency."We are also very accessible by phone or e-mail," she said. "It's not sort of a mystery like other larger agencies can be."Still, two or three area residents questioned the LPC's motives, asking whether the agency favored certain developers or even whether its staff cared about the homeowners. Several shouts of "Why not?" went up when Daly said there was no voting process for homeowners at the meeting.But tempers returned to room temperature when she further explained that the agency was sought out to make a presentation by community members and that changes could be requested at an official LPC meeting if and when the landmarking proposal was calendared.Others in the audience also delivered stern reminders about the importance of protecting Douglaston's character, pointing to development in Bayside and the rest of Queens."You're living in a community where a lot of people want to be a part of an historic area," one elderly man said. "This area is 'overpriced' precisely because it is unique. If you strip that away, your property values will plummet," he said to sustained applause.Reach reporter M. Junaid Alam by e-mail at malam@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext 174.

Updated 6:57 pm, October 10, 2011
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