By Madina Toure
The lawyer representing a family moving into a Broadway-Flushing home that residents fear will become an illegal hotel brokered a joint meeting between the family and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).
Avella and the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association hosted a rally last week at the property, located at 35-20 156th St., to protest the possibility that the home could be turned into an illegal hotel again.
The meeting, open to the public, consisted of a discussion and a tour of the property, which is currently under renovation.
Although the family, which hails from the Fuzhou province of China, usually keeps to themselves, they wanted to reach out to the community to clarify the misunderstanding, said Robert Wong, the lawyer representing the family. The family has a language barrier.
“The bottom line is this: We’re trying to protect the community from having an illegal hotel,” Wong said. “I’m trying to make peace and allow this family to move in. If there is something that is not in conformance with the building code, whether you’re correct or not, we’ll make the proper rectifications.”
The property is owned by Qin Jin Yang, who is moving into the home with her husband, their four adult children, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and their infant grandchild.
Wong described them as hardworking Chinese immigrants who used their life savings of around $500,000 to fund the renovation.
In 2006, four violations were issued against the property, when Avella said it operated as an illegal hotel, and an additional four were issued in 2014, according to a DOB spokesman.
A full stop-work order currently exists on the property, which means that no construction work can be done at this time, the spokesman said. The property has received 50 complaints, all closed.
The DOB issued a 15-day notice to revoke the permit for the project April 27 because of an objection concerning the questionable layout in a single-family residence.
In March 2014, the DOB approved Yang’s original plan for 14 bedrooms, Wong said. She submitted a revised plan to the DOB April 15, with changes that included reducing the number of bedrooms to 10, changing the main entrance and removing a bedroom and about 200 square feet of floor space on the second floor to create an entrance hall.
The DOB rejected the revised plan.
Before Avella arrived for the meeting, the encounter had already taken on a contentious tone, as urban planning expert Paul Graziano, who spoke at the rally, and Shiming Tam, the architect, argued about the construction process.
Graziano criticized the decision to take floor area from the second floor and put it on the third floor and the alteration of the roofline, among other complaints.
Tam said the DOB should be left to determine whether or not the building complies with code and regulations, calling Graziano a “layman.”
“We can ask the Buildings Department to interpret this and also leave us to interpret it,” Tam said.
But Graziano countered that he and others have the professional qualifications to understand the matter.
“It is up to people to disagree with the Buildings Department interpretation,” he said.
Wong and Tam gave Avella, Graziano and reporters a brief tour of the property, including the bedrooms and the two-story foyer.
Avella was planning to meet with Wong and Tam at his office this week to go over the property plans. He commended the family for initiating the discussion.
“I appreciate the fact that you reached out,” Avella told Wong and the family. “That always shows good intentions, it always does.”
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour