Civic, Pols Cheer Bldg’s Demise
After months of appeals, the remains of a partiallycollapsed building near the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps will soon be demolished, it was announced.
The Times Newsweekly learned on Monday, Apr. 14, from the Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) that it would begin the process of tearing down 78-19 Jamaica Ave., which suffered partial structural failure a year ago.
According to an HPD spokesperson, the agency is acting on orders from the Department of Buildings, which received permission days earlier from a judge during an Environmental Control Board hearing regarding the property. The property’s owner-who did not appear, according to reports-was also slapped with a $5,000 fine for failure to maintain the structure.
The HPD will perform the work, but the property owner will be billed for the work, it was noted. If the owner fails to pay for the effort, the city will place a lien on the property.
Civic groups such as the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) and local elected officials repeatedly called on the city to have 78-19 Jamaica Ave. stabilized or demolished since last April’s collapse. The event damaged the neighboring headquarters of the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, located at 78-15 Jamaica Ave., sidelining the corps and also forcing out the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center, which operated at the headquarters on weekdays.
Structural damage to its base, combined with a loss of rent from the senior center, has crippled the ambulance corps’ operations, according to WRBA President Martin Colberg and State Sen. Joseph Addabbo. They-along with Assemblyman Mike Miller, City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley and activists-participated in a rally at the site on Mar. 2 urging that the damaged building be demolished, fearing that further collapse of the damaged building would further risk public safety and the corps’ existence.
Colberg, Addabbo and Miller welcomed the news of HPD action in phone interviews with the Times Newsweekly on Tuesday, Apr. 15.
“It’s a big step forward,” Colberg stated. “If all goes well, within a month it could be gone.”
Addabbo added the HPD informed him an asbestos inspection was being done that day at 78-19 Jamaica Ave. Demolition could take place within “four to six weeks,” depending on whether asbestos abatement is required.
“They got the paperwork [from the DOB] Friday. It’s Tuesday, and they’re already going out there to do the asbestos inspection,” the senator said. “They’re moving quick, and we definitely appreciate this.”
“It’s about time that action is being taken,” Miller added. “We gave the owner plenty of time to take care of his responsiblities; he didn’t do that. We look to HPD to take care of this situation as quickly as possible.”
“Finally the Department of Buildings is taking action-it has been a difficult year trying to push both the agency and the land owner to do the right thing,” Crowley said in a statement to the Times Newsweekly on Wednesday, Apr. 16. “I will continue to work with DOB and the Woodhaven community to make sure that the senior center and the ambulance corps have proper access to the building, and that responsible development happens at this site.”
Addabbo stated that he and other lawmakers would seek state and city funds to help the Woodhaven- Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps repair its headquarters and become active once again.
On its Facebook page, the corps publicly thanked the HPD, Addabbo, Assemblyman Mike Miller and City Council Members Crowley and Eric Ulrich for their efforts to have the city take action at 78-19 Jamaica Ave.
“We’re looking forward to seeing this dangerous eyesore gone,” according to the post.