Astoria med center gets OK

Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

The city granted a crucial permit to developers of a controversial Astoria medical facility last week against the wishes of neighbors who contend construction crews did irreparable damage to their property.

On May 21, the city Board of Standards and Appeals granted a special permit to Pali Realty, the company that began constructing the eight-story structure, at 23-25 31st St., after the city Department of Buildings approved the plans in March, 2011, according to the developers.

Pali, run by Yianni Konstantinidis, had completed about 80 percent of the building before an auditor found a mistake in the July, 2012.

The second story of the building, beginning 23 feet in the air, is supposed to be set back 30 feet from the edge like a giant step, but was instead designed as a 20-foot setback.

Construction on the back of the building was stopped, but last week’s special permit essentially legalizes the mistake.

“The special permit issued by BSA will allow the development of a beneficial medical office building in western Queens, an area that is vastly under served in its medical needs,” a spokesman said.

That did not sit well with homeowners, who maintain the city gave away its only bargaining chip in the fight to win compensation to fix their homes.

“This was our grow-old house, and they ruined it,” said Robert Draghi, who lives behind the future medical facility in a brick home with his wife. Draghi, and others on the block, contend that when Pali Realty dug the foundation, some dirt underneath their homes was sucked out, creating cracks in the walls, back patios and foundations. Draghi’s house even began to lean backward away from the curb, he said.

They hoped the city would withhold the special permit until the problem could be remedied.

When the community board voted – to recommend approval of the special permit, it did so on the condition the developer compensate the homeowners, but that has not yet happened.

Pali contends it already offered to fix the homes before insurance companies got involved.

Further the company said its general contractor is responsible for dealing with the homeowners and it is contractually prohibited from intervening in insurance negotiations.

Draghi begs to differ and believes Pali’s insurance should pay for him to rebuild his home, which an auditor hired by Draghi said is beyond repair.

The Astoria resident said an appellate court decision from last year proves Pali is responsible, though he would rather take care of the matter without a judge’s involvement. Another neighbor, however, has already filed suit in Queens Civil Supreme Court.

Homeowners got a visit from state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) Tuesday, when the lawmaker pledged to try to mediate a solution to the problem.

“Here’s another example of when developers seem to have all the rights,” Avella said in Draghi’s backyard.

Avella was far from his northeast Queens district, but close to the office of a councilman who is running against him for borough president.

“We would like to welcome Sen. Avella to an area he never sees — northwest Queens,” said Andrew Moesel, a spokesman for Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), a rival for the borough’s top post. “Council Member Vallone has attempted to help resolve the situation without holding needless press conferences only meant to draw more attention to a political candidacy.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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