By Alex Robinson
The owners of the historic Klein Farm have been issued summonses to appear at hearings concerning the illegal removal of trees at the protected property.
Audrey Realty, headed by Henry Huang, son of notorious developer Thomas Huang, was issued a stop-work order and a violation by the city Department of Buildings in December. The firm was cited for unpermitted work on the property’s driveway and for removing trees from the farm, at 194-15 73rd Ave. in Fresh Meadows.
The farm is in the Fresh Meadows Special Planned Community Preservation District, meaning any changes to the property require approval from the City Planning Commission.
The first hearing, scheduled to take place Jan. 28 at 10:30 a.m., at 144-06 94th Ave., will focus on a violation for “illegal tree removal” and “work without a permit,” according to the DOB.
The second hearing will address a zoning violation for the “substantial modification of existing landscaping in a special district tree removing” and will take place at the same Queens Business Center location Feb. 4 at 10:30 a.m.
Henry Huang was not available for comment.
A judge from the city Environmental Control Board will determine whether Audrey Realty will face any penalty for the violations. Huang’s firm could face as much as $20,000 total in fines for the two violations, according to ECB. The standard ECB fine for each violation is $800 and the default fine for each violation is $4,000.
Community leaders welcomed the fact Audrey Realty could face penalties for the unpermitted altering of the property.
“There should be restitution. The trees should be put back. You can’t just do this with reckless abandon and not have consequences,” said Jim Trent, president of the Queens County Farm Museum, in Floral Park. “They had to know they couldn’t touch the trees. You can’t touch anything on that property without permission.”
Trent appealed to the city Parks Department in 2004 to buy Klein Farm so it would be owned by the city and restored by the farm museum, but the necessary funding was not available.
The property was home to Queens’ last family-owned working farm before it was sold to Thomas Huang in 2003 for $4.3 million. In 1999, Huang was convicted of damaging the landmarked RKO Keith’s Theatre by allowing thousands of gallons of oil to spill in the property’s basement.
After he acquired the property, Huang unsuccessfully tried to redevelop the farm into 22 two-family homes. Preschool of America, which offers daycare for children, currently occupies the old farm building.
Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.