Woodhaven rallies against shaky building

By Rich Bockmann

Woodhaven residents channeled their inner Gipper over the weekend when they called on the city to demolish a partially collapsed building they say is waging a cold war on the neighborhood’s volunteer ambulance corps.

“We’re going to go right to the top here and say, ‘Mayor de Blasio, tear down that wall. Tear down that building and let’s save this ambulance corps,’” Ed Wendell, former president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, said Sunday outside a building on the corner of Jamaica Avenue and 79th Street where the roof caved in last spring.

“We’re in a situation now where even if this building doesn’t fall, it is still a danger,” he added. “It is damaging and killing this ambulance corps day-by-day, and each day that goes on that the city doesn’t do something to resolve this problem they become more and more complicit in the death of this ambulance corps.”

The building, a former furniture store, had dozens of violations before it collapsed April 12, sending bricks scattering onto the sidewalk.

The property’s owner, George Kochabe, recently appeared in court after the Fire Department issued a criminal summons charging him with failing to comply with a city Department of Buildings order to fix the building.

Community members said Kochabe is next due in court April 10, but wondered how much more of a pounding the building could take this winter.

“Tear it down!” they chanted. “Tear it down!”

“Every day this building is standing the more dangerous it becomes for everybody, said Jim Coccovillo, chairman of Community Board 9.

State Sen. Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) said he and state Assemblyman Michael Miller (D-Woodhaven) were considering introducing legislation that would require the city to place a lien on a building such as the former furniture store after 90 days and demolish it.

After the building collapsed, the ambulance corps was forced to relocate to a senior center that occupied a part of the corps’ headquarters, placing a financial burden on the 49-year-old organization.

Martin Colberg, president of the Woodhaven residents’ association, said the derelict structure was threatening to wipe out the beloved neighborhood organization.

“I think this building is starting to become the perfect trifecta of what we don’t want in this neighborhood,” he said. “You know, it’s a magnet for graffiti. It’s a building that’s ready to collapse and it’s something that’s threatening to take away an institution from this community. It’s 10 months and it’s 10 months too long.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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