By Sophia Chang
In April, Kambourakis began expanding his elegant two-family house at 217-03 38th Ave. in east Bayside in anticipation of the couple's future children, with plans to add two bedrooms where there had been front and rear porches on the first floor.But those plans were put on hold when the city's Department of Buildings issued him a stop-work order May 11 after Bayside was rezoned with the city's toughest housing restrictions in early April, leaving the couple in limbo as the Department of Buildings halted all on-going renovations to check compliance with the new zoning codes. Kambourakis' renovation plans were determined to be non-compliant because his expansion plans were 10 feet over the new lot coverage limit, which restricts the footprint of homes on property lots. “It's 10 feet, for God's sake,” De Sa said. “We're not trying to build a commercial building.”She met with City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) Friday, who has sent a letter on her behalf to the Department of Buildings asking for consideration. But De Sa and Kambourakis will have to file for a variance to continue with their original plans, a spokeswoman for the Department of Buildings said.And according to De Sa, “when it rains, it pours.” The couple's misfortunes mounted in late May, when an electrical fire destroyed De Sa's Flushing home and displaced her and her mother. The 38th Avenue property, littered with construction material and exposed rebar beams, poses a danger, and Kambourakis is staying with a friend while De Sa and her mother have checked into a hotel in Whitestone. De Sa and Kambourakis question why their renovations plans were sanctioned and the two were allowed to proceed with $50,000 in construction work just before the City Council voted to approve the rezoning plan.”My argument is, how come the Buildings Department approved drawings and issued permits if there was the possibility of the rezoning?” De Sa said. “We would have tried to comply.”Kambourakis, who has lived in Bayside for 25 years and owns a local construction firm, took on much of the expansion work himself but said he never received notification about the possible rezoning. He obtained construction permits on March 28 and renovation work began in early April. “They never notified me. I started the work, and they didn't give me a violation, but they stopped the work,” Kambourakis said, estimating a third of the project has been completed. “They should have never approved me.”Adding to the unstable situation is Kambourakis's discovery of an old, rusted gas line that runs beneath the property, exposed when he dug up the porch. He said the gas line needs to be repaired, but he cannot notify ConEdison nor do any safety work until the stop-work order is lifted.”After we excavated the foundation, we find out the gas line is rusted and dangerous, and there's a school across the street,” Kambourakis said, nodding in the direction of the Sacred Heart of Bayside school a mere 10 yards away from his house.De Sa, a Brazilian native who lived in Astoria before moving to Flushing nine years ago, said she supports the rezoning in theory.”I'm not against the change,” she said. But she pointed out that Kambourakis' and her renovation of the 38th Avenue house jibes with the spirit of the rezoning meant to preserve the older homes in Bayside from destruction.”If they did this law to stop people from turning one- or two-family homes into four-families, then this is good for the neighborhood, good for our property value,” she said. “This house is from the 1920s, and that's why we like it. It's authentic.”And although she is looking forward to her July wedding in Greece, De Sa still despairs over her spate of bad luck.”This was supposed to be a happy year,” De Sa said. “I lost all my wedding stuff in the fire, and we have no place to live. I don't know what to say.”Reach reporter Sophia Chang by e-mail at email@example.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.