Ahles House owner fights Avella over landmarking

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The owner of a Bayside home that will be considered later this month for landmark preservation said he does not support the proposal, which was first initiated by City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) seven years ago.

Robert Rubin said he has lived in the historic Ahles House, at 39−24 213th St. in Bayside, for 25 years and purchased the property from its former owners a few years ago. Avella had said the house’s owner lived in Florida and was against landmarking it.

But Rubin said he currently owns the property and uses both apartments in the two−family home for himself. He does not support the proposal to landmark the property.

“The possibility of doing this as a landmark is causing me incredible strain,” he said. “I’ve lived in this house for half of my adult life. I’ve sweated and saved for 25 years to call it my own. Obviously, the [previous] owner did not want it landmarked and I don’t want it landmarked. I’m not going to knock it down. I want to retire in it. This home reflects everything I’ve saved for and this is ridiculous, especially in this economic time.”

But Avella said a landmark status for the building would only require its owner to preserve the facade and would not prevent work on its interior. He said the home’s previous owner had lived in Florida at the time he began the process to get it preserved.

“If he sold the building, it’s news to me,” he said. “It still doesn’t dissuade me. This is a building worthy of designation because of its unique architecture. Landmarking does not stop the current owner from living there. So, what’s the concern?”

Rubin said the property’s original owner had not ever lived in Florida and that the residents on his block do not support landmarking the home.

The Landmarks Preservation Commission could not be reached for comment.

The house was constructed in the early 1870s by Robert Bell, nephew of Bayside founder Abraham Bell, for his daughter, Lillie, and her husband, John William Ahles, as a wedding gift. Ahles was a prominent grain merchant and an officer of the New York Product Exchange.

Avella said most of the mansion’s original architectural features are still intact, including mansion−style windows that reach to the floor. The councilman first began advocating for the building to be landmarked in 2002 and made a formal proposal three years later.

Avella and community activists have said they want to protect the home from being altered by potential future real estate development.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission will vote whether to designate the building as a landmark during a March 24 meeting. The proposal will then go before the Council and Department of City Planning.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e−mail at or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 6:34 pm, October 10, 2011
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