Collapsed Wdhvn. Bldg. To Finally Be Fixed
An official from the Department of Buildings (DOB) informed the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) during its meeting last Thursday, Sept. 18, that an infamous eyesore will be fully rebuilt by November.
Ken Lazar gave attendees another update on the partially collapsed building at 78-19 Jamaica Ave., and told the WRBA the owner is ahead of schedule in restoring the building. Several members, however, expressed anger again over the months-long process and were skeptical that it would be finished as quickly as Lazar claimed.
The partial collapse in April 2013 damaged the adjacent building that housed both the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Ambulance Corps and the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Senior Center. Attendees were most concerned as to when each would be able to return to their normal operations.
As previously reported, the senior center has relocated, and the ambulance corps, which relies on volunteers to operate is struggling to survive.
Though a judge has set down a schedule that the building owner must comply with, Lazar said, he is unsure when the ambulance corps will be able to return to normal functions next door.
The owner “now has a set schedule, every week he has a deadline of things he has to do,” Lazar said.
“Whether it will be ready for occupancy, no. The building will be repaired, whether he has the walls painted inside and stuff like that done, that’s not part of the restoring the structure of the building.”
Board member Vance Barbour expressed his frustration with the months-long process and said he believes “the building should have been probably down six months ago.”
“I drove by there last weekend and I see nothing visually different,” Barbour said. “Can you tell us what it is he actually did in this two month period since July,?”
“All the work is taking place either inside or on the roof, so you wouldn’t actually see any difference until now when they are bringing the walls down,” Lazar said.
Though Barbour and others were most concerned about when the ambulance corps can move back in, Lazar would not speculate when that could happen. The DOB is primarily concerned with the structural integrity of the edifice itself, not whether it is habitable or safe for use as a work facility.
The agency is charged with ensuring “the structural body of the building,” Lazar said.
He did say that within two or three weeks an inspection will be completed, and sometime in November the repairs should be finished.
For months WRBA members and elected officials have wanted a resolution, and for the community services to be restored. They have claimed the owner dragged his feet on making repairs, cementing his status as a bad neighbor.
“I think it’s right to give the building owner an opportunity, but an obscene amount of opportunity is not right. And this owner certainly made it known that he just does not care about the building and it’s not since the April collapse last year. It’s well before that,” State Sen. Joseph Addabbo said.
“Because well before the collapse … over a hundred building violations on that building, so he didn’t care. He never cared,” Addabbo said.
“The judge finally set down a schedule that the owner needs to follow and I’m happy to say he is following the set schedule, he is actually ahead of schedule now,” Lazar said.
“The judge has set a set of deadlines and as of right now, last Monday, they actually completed what they need to complete next Monday. So they are a little bit over a week ahead of schedule. So hopefully, within another say week or two, after they remove the loose bricks in the walls and the debris the ambulance corps can get back into the building and start cleaning and using their building. Once the building is deemed safe,” he added.
Many attendees remained skeptical the building owner will comply with the judges’ orders and questioned the timeline for completion.
“So when does he actually have the work done?” Barbour asked.
“I think it’s sometime in November,” Lazar replied. “He is restoring the building,” Lazar said.
This sparked one member to call the November target date “totally unrealistic.”
“Most of that building has deteriorated to the point where it’s gone,” he said. “This guy expects [it to take] a couple of months to put a new building there?”
“I think what we should focus on is they are taking steps forward and we have seen some progress,” WRBA President Martin Colberg said.
Lazar said plans have been reviewed by a third-party and approved through the appropriate channels.
“We’ll make sure they are sticking to the schedule,” Colberg said.
“It took him two months to do very little and now its going to take him two months to rebuild it,” a skeptical Barbour said.
“I think it’s important that it’s moving forward,” Colberg said.
Deputy Inspector Henry Sautner, commanding officer of the 102nd Precinct told attendees a woman was attacked in Forest Park last Tuesday, Sept. 16, near the Buddy Memorial entrance as she was jogging on a horse trail path near Union Turnpike.
There have been a series of six sexual assaults at the park in the last few years which appear to be part of a pattern, but this appeared to be an isolated incident, Sautner said.
The attacks happened in six to eight month increments, with the last to fit the pattern occurring last August.
“We have not made an arrest yet,” he said.
The woman was jogging at around 6 p.m. when she was accosted from behind, Sautner said.
“There is nothing that indicates it’s the same person or pattern,” Sautner said. It was “not a crime sexual [sic] in nature, he added.
All auxillary officers, a mounted unit and other measures have been assigned to patrol the park entrances and exits, he said.
“I am pretty confident right now that we have some leads,” he said. “So hopefully we’ll get an arrest on that.”
Sautner noted that its a large park and difficult to patrol because there are many places to hide and its hard to see through the many trees with leaves, especially in the summer.
The victim was not physically injured in the attack, Sautner said
The next Woodhaven Residents Block Association meeting will be held at 12 p.m, Saturday, Oct. 18, at the American Legion Hall, 89-02 91st St.