By Kelsey Durham
Members of Auburndale community groups are puzzled by a vacant lot on Northern Boulevard that appears to be under construction but has remained unchanged for more than four years.
The boarded-up site, at the corner of Northern Boulevard and 196th Street, has some nearby residents wondering what, if anything, will take its place. The property formerly housed a gas station that was demolished in 1998 and the city Department of Buildings began issuing new building permits in 2002.
Since then, 32 permits have been issued for various types of work, including new buildings, alterations and sign construction, but no work applications have been filed since 2009.
Henry Euler, first vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association, said the lot has been vacant for years and has been the subject of some complaints filed by various groups.
“My civic association had registered complaints because there were a lot of old things stored on the site, like garden nursery-type materials at one point,” he said. “The construction fence had been in disrepair and no permits were posted.”
Euler said the community has talked about several options for what could be built where the lot now stands empty but has no confirmation about what is really happening. One possibility mentioned by some nearby residents was to turn the lot into a school, which Euler said the community is in need of, according to the city School Construction Authority.
He said the SCA had contacted Community Board 11 about the need for a new elementary school in the Bayside-Auburndale area, and last month the City Council approved a plan to build an elementary school at 48th Avenue and 211th Street in Bayside. Residents who live near the site, now occupied by Keil Brothers Garden Center, still are strongly opposed to having the school so close the backyards of 31 homes, but the SCA is believed to be moving ahead with its plan.
Euler said he believes the lot on Northern Boulevard is large enough for a school and would satisfy those who are looking for another one in the area.
Another possibility for the property, he said, is to turn it into some type of community space.
“Many people would like to see a greenspace located on that site, since we do not have a park in Auburndale,” he said. “Nor do we have a senior citizens center.”
Euler said there is currently a request with CB 11 to find funding that would help pay for a senior center and the empty lot might be a good place for such a facility. He said the community has also suggested turning the lot into a library or even a parking area or school building to be used by St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, across the street.
Susan Seinfeld, district manager for CB 11, said she had not heard any updates about the property since the DOB last issued permits. Euler said people occasionally come to board meetings asking about the lot, but there is little information known about it.
A call made Tuesday to the property’s developer, Green Hill Development LLC of Flushing, was not immediately returned.
“It’s a very strange situation,” Euler said. “It’s this big piece of property that has been vacant for a long time. People ask me what’s going on and I really don’t have any answers for them.”
Reach reporter Kelsey Durham at 718-260-4573 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.