Buyer in wings to take over Steinway home

By Bill Parry

The historic Steinway Mansion, built in 1858, finally has a buyer after a tumultuous four years on the market.

The landmarked Astoria home of the legendary piano-making Steinway family from 1858-1924 was owned by the Halberian family ever since. Michael Halberian lived in the home atop a hill at 18-33 41st St. his entire life.

After his death in 2010, the family put the house up for sale. His daughter, Michele Kazarian, executor of the estate, confirmed that the mansion has been under pending contract for several months.

“It’s been a very difficult time for me and my family, but yes, there is a buyer. We wanted to sell it to the city for the longest time, but we just had to move on,” Kazarian said.

Paul Halvatis, of Amorelli Realty, brokered the deal and, while he could not disclose any details about the private buyer, provided context to what Kazarian has gone through.

“Say your parents die and before you have time to grieve people are coming out of the woodwork dictating what you should do with your own family home,” Halvatis said. “Everyone has an opinion on what should be done with the mansion, but nobody’s coming forward with any money. It’s a very difficult position to be in, especially when you’re paying the taxes at $28,000 a year.”

The price of the pending deal was not disclosed.

Former City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. said the Halberian family tried to do the right thing for Queens by footing the taxes on an empty property for so long.

“I tried for years to get the city to buy it and it’s an abject failure that they didn’t buy it and make it a part of the Historic House Trust of New York City,” he said.

The trust is a nonprofit that works with the city Parks Department to support houses of architectural and cultural significance spanning 350 years of New York City life. Gracie Mansion and the Little Red Lighthouse are part of the trust as are The Bowne House and the Kingsland Homestead in Flushing and the King Manor Museum in Jamaica.

“I don’t fault the family for selling or the private buyer, but I certainly do blame the city,” he said.

While the identity of the buyer has not been disclosed publicly, it will be soon, according to Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria).

“I am meeting with the parties soon and I hope we come to a positive resolution, I want it to remain a part of the fabric of this neighborhood so we can continue to celebrate the mansion’s history,” the lifelong Astorian said.

State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) agreed.

“I happen to live a block away from the Steinway Mansion and have gone past it for most of my life, and I think it’s a shame the city didn’t buy it and add it to the Historic House Trust,” he said.

Bob Singleton, executive director of Friends of Steinway Mansion, said, “The mansion is under contract and there really is nothing else to say.”

The group had hoped to raise $9 million to buy the home, restore it to its former glory and turn it into a museum and learning center.

Vallone said the building cannot be torn down because of its landmark status and he hopes the new buyer will give the public access to the historic home in some fashion.

“Maybe they can make it a restaurant or a catering hall. I just hope they don’t wall it off and deny the people of Queens such a treasure,” he said.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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