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Avella, homeowners group want landmarking for Broadway-Flushing

By Madina Toure

Residents of the Broadway-Flushing neighborhood want the Landmarks Preservation Commission to recognize the neighborhood as a historic district.

The association has been fighting for the designation for the last 11 to 12 years, according to Robert Hanophy, the association’s president.

The designation would prevent the city Department of Buildings from letting developers take on projects in the neighborhood that violate the area’s restrictive covenants, which are deed restrictions put in place in 1906 that prevent the construction of walls or fences within 20 feet of the property lines and streets, prohibit flat roofs and mandate minimum lot sizes and construction costs for homes.

“There is a twofold issue with landmarking which is it basically freezes the neighborhood in time, architecture and everything else,” Hanophy said. “But it stops a lot of the development and overdevelopment that the Department of Buildings is basically turning a blind eye to.”

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who has been involved with this issue since his days on the City Council, sent a request for evaluation to LPC April 17.

The request is currently under review, according to an LPC spokeswoman.

“It would preserve the suburban character of the neighborhood,” Avella said.

The neighborhood was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005, according to Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant and historic preservationist, who authored the National Register nomination.

There are about 120 historic districts in the city, with only 10 that are suburban, Graziano said.Only three of the designated suburban areas are in Queens: Douglas Manor, the Douglas Hill Historic District and Addisleigh Park in St. Albans.

Last summer, the association won two cases. One gave the association the right to prevent a homeowner from building a wall that violated an open space requirement, while the other prohibits a new owner from dividing a lot into two subdivisions with one home apiece.

About half a dozen major alterations or demolitions are taking place in the area right now, Graziano said.

“It’s beginning to change the look of the neighborhood and the neighborhood doesn’t want that,” he said. “They want landmarking.”

The neighborhood has an R12A zoning, which is exclusively reserved for single family homes. The zoning was put in place roughly six years ago.

Janet McCreesh, the immediate past president of the association, said she and other individuals collected signatures for the landmark designation in the association’s boundary.

“The landmark designation would stop the illegal activity and it would preserve all the different styles of architecture that exist in this neighborhood that is so unusual and so charming for a neighborhood to be so close to Manhattan,” McCreesh said.

Because development is as-of-right in the city, a project can be permitted as long as the plans submitted to the DOB comply with applicable sections of the building code and zoning regulation, a DOB spokesman said.

In January, Avella introduced a bill that would enable a homeowner or homeowner association, along with a relevant neighborhood or civic association, to file deed restrictions for communities that are covered by them with the DOB. The DOB would then be required to review the deed registry before issuing any permits to ensure that such permits do not violate the restrictions.

Last April, City Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) introduced a bill that requires the DOB to maintain a registry of restrictive covenants. It is currently awaiting a hearing in the Committee on Housing and Buildings. He also introduced a resolution that calls on the state to pass Avella’s bill.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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