By Madina Toure
Nearly 100 residents joined state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association to protest the reconstruction of a house in Broadway-Flushing they fear may become an illegal hotel again.
The building, located at 35-20 156th St., which is classified by the city as a one-family dwelling, is currently being renovated to fix code violations issued by the city Department of Buildings, according to Avella.
Residents have expressed concerns over initial floor plans that call for more than a dozen bedrooms and eight bathrooms throughout the house, Avella said.
“The problem has to manifest itself completely for the Department of Buildings to take action,” he said.
Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant and historic preservationist, also spoke at the rally.
He expressed skepticism about the house being used as a single family home, pointing out the reception area that currently exists on the first floor.
“Single family homes don’t have reception areas,” Graziano said.
Maria Becce, a member of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, agreed, but credited the DOB with sending out inspectors to the property.
“The Department of Buildings needs more tools to get their job done,” Becce said.
Four violations were issued against the property in 2006, when Avella said it operated as an illegal hotel, and another four in 2014, according to a DOB spokesman.
A full stop-work order exists on the property, which means that no construction work can be done at this time, the spokesman said. The property has received a total of 50 complaints, all of which are closed.
The DOB issued a 15-day notice to revoke the permit for the project April 27 due to an objection about the questionable layout in a single-family residence.
Broadway-Flushing resident Maria Wilson, 72, who lives on 169th Street and 32nd Avenue, and has lived in the neighborhood for 35 years, referred to the DOB as the “department of bastards.”
The agency does not listen to the people, doing whatever it wants to do, Wilson said.
“This is a disgrace,” she said. “It doesn’t belong here. This is a hotel.”
The property is owned by Qin Jin Yang, according to a statement prepared by Robert Wong, the attorney representing the family.
Yang is moving into the home with her husband, their four adult children, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law and their infant grandchild. All of them intend to use the property as their residence after its renovation, according to Wong.
Wong described the family as hardworking Chinese immigrants from the Fuzhou province of China.
The family learned of the rally April 29, a day before it took place, the statement said, and were not notified by the rally organizers.
In March 2014, the DOB approved Yang’s original plan for 14 bedrooms, Wong said. She submitted an amended plan to the DOB April 15 that reduced the number of bedrooms to 10.
The amended plan also changed the main entrance from the side to the center of the house, according to the statement.
It removed a bedroom and roughly 200 square feet of floor space on the second floor to create an entrance hall that would have a two-story-high ceiling, with a spiral stairway leading from the first floor to a viewing balcony on the second floor.
The DOB denied the amended plan, which Wong believes was due to public pressure.
The family’s residence is being misunderstood, likely because of their ethnic background, cultural difference and language barrier, he said.
“It’s kind of sad that they didn’t really bother trying to contact my clients and speak to us before they had the rally,” he said.
Avella said he plans to introduce legislation that would grant the DOB acccess to a property at any time, which he said the City Council would likely reject.
Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtour