Landmarks meeting spurs hope for Doug Hill district

By Ayala Ben-Yehuda

Commission spokeswoman Diane Jackier said the agency would meet with Douglaston Hill homeowners on Wednesday, March 10, at 7:30 p.m. at the Zion Episcopal Church “to discuss the Landmarks Commission's designation process and the regulatory process.”

Although she declined comment on if or when Douglaston Hill might be landmarked, she said the commission would speak to residents about “what their responsibilities are as an owner in a landmarked district.”

Since 1989 preservationists have been trying to get landmark status for Douglaston Hill, which lies among Northern Boulevard, the Long Island Rail Road, Douglaston Parkway and part of 244th Street.

The designation would protect turn-of-the-century homes from demolition and would require external renovations to be in keeping with the area's character.

Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who held several rallies to press for historic designation by the city, called the March 10 meeting “at least another step in the right direction.”

“They've gone out and looked at it,” Avella said. “That is a positive step.”

Time became a critical issue last fall when a 1901 Queen Anne home at 240-35 43rd Ave. went up for sale and word spread among neighbors that it would be demolished by a developer.

The home's selling agent, Su Yi, said Tuesday that the home's prospective buyer might have changed his mind.

“He doesn't want any headaches,” she said.

The commission said in January that though it had tentatively denied the landmarking application for Douglaston Hill, it was willing to consider additional information.

Representatives of the Douglaston-Little Neck Historical Society then submitted alternative proposals with smaller district outlines to protect the neighborhood's turn-of-the-century homes.

State Sen. Frank Padavan (R-Bellerose) also held a meeting Feb. 5 with Landmarks Commission Chairman Robert Tierney on the issue.

To be landmarked, a property must be at least 30 years old and have “a special character or special historical or aesthetic interest or value as part of the development, heritage or cultural characteristics of the city, state or nation,” according to the commission's Web site.

Landmark supporters must fill out an application that is reviewed by the commission. After public hearings and meetings, the commission votes on designation, with six votes needed to approve or deny.

The City Planning Commission prepares a report for the City Council on the designation's effects prior to a council vote.

Preservationist and urban planning consultant Paul Graziano hoped the commission would formally “calendar” the landmarking request at the agency's March 23 meeting. The move would all but guarantee eventual landmark status for Douglaston Hill and save homes in the proposed district from immediate demolition.

“Why is it that only under extreme political pressure, something that should be a no-brainer is finally happening?” asked Graziano, who recommended the area be landmarked in his zoning study of Avella's council district.

Jackier said nothing was scheduled involving Douglaston Hill for the March 23 meeting of the commission.

Douglaston Civic Association President Eliott Socci said he was optimistic about Douglaston Hill's chances for landmarking. As far as he knew, those homeowners who would be included in the district were supportive.

“I think everyone who's in it wants to be in it.”

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

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