By Sophia Chang
Spearheaded by the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society, about 50 residents and civic leaders spoke on behalf of the application, which would officially designate a 31-home area of Douglaston Hill as a historic district.”Everybody was in favor. Residents, non-residents, all spoke on behalf of the application,” said Joe Hellmann, who represented Community Board 11 at the hearing. “The points made were the architectural integrity, the history of (Douglaston) Hill, the fact that we're on the National Register of Historic Places, and the incidental point that we don't have enough historic districts in Queens.” He added, “It's a neighborhood worthy of protection and so are many other neighborhoods in Queens that are under attack.”The society, started in 1989, was formed with a set of specific goals, including the creation of landmarked historic districts in Douglas Manor and Douglaston Hill. Douglas Manor was designated in 1997. Douglaston Hill, though it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000, had its initial application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission denied. In an unprecedented move, the commission reversed its decision in January after community outcry and agreed to schedule the application for Tuesday's hearing. Landmarks Commissioner Robert Tierney and several staff members heard testimonies during the public session. Many who spoke agreed the commission would likely approve the application. “My impression is that they already made their decision that they will landmark it, and this was really an opportunity for anyone to dissent, which no one did,” said Eliott Socci, who spoke at the hearing on behalf of the Douglaston Civic Association.Once the commission grants its approval, the Department of City Planning will then look at the application before it is presented before City Council for final ratification.”The commissioner, tomorrow or the day after, will take a formal vote and the application will be forwarded on to the next committee,” said Bill Sievers, chairman of the society's Douglaston Hill Committee. “Depending to how much time they devote to this, it will show up before the City Council, at which it will be Tony Avella's charge to usher it through for council approval.”Speakers included City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Queens County Farm Museum founder James Trent, borough historian Stanley Cogan, Historic Districts Council President Simeon Bankoff, and Gene McSweeney from state Assemblywoman Ann-Margaret Carrozza's (D-Bayside) office.Some see Douglaston Hill's designation as a victory in the struggle to have more areas in Queens landmarked. Several residents from other borough neighborhoods facing similar struggles attended the hearing, said Paul Graziano, urban preservationist consultant. “There were a lot of people from other neighborhoods because they see the Hill as a seminal case, where major ground is being made,” he said. “People from Bayside, College Point, Flushing, all saying Ôwe're from these neighborhoods, we don't want you to forget us, we don't want to wait 14 years.'”Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.