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Avella wants stop work order for planned Flushing daycare expansion

By Madina Toure

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and community leaders are calling on the city Department of Buildings to issue a stop work order on what they say is the illegal and dangerous expansion of the Happy Dragon daycare facility in Flushing.

In 2001, Dula Man, a registered operator of daycare centers, bought the home at 30-04 146th St. It has operated as a pre-K and daycare center since 2003. Happy Dragon, a certified chain of for-profit pre-K-and-above learning centers, operates the facility.

The daycare facility could not be reached at a listed phone number, which was not working. A DOB spokesman said the agency is auditing the application.

At a news conference last Friday in front of the facility, Avella said the plans for the home’s development say the daycare would extend into the cellar and to the second floor, arguing that expanding the daycare into the cellar was inappropriate and raises health and fire safety concerns.

He also said the R2A single-family home zoning code prohibits mixed uses on the same floor, noting that if the home is being used for both commercial and residential purposes, those uses would have to be segregated by floor.

“The displayed development plan is rife with issues, including the use of the second floor for both residential and commercial uses,” Avella said. “Overall, it is surprising that a plan riddled with issues ever received the Department of Buildings’ stamp of approval, and the agency needs to immediately rectify their mistake by issuing a stop work order.”

In a letter dated June 24 to FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro, Avella expressed concerns about the potential placement of infants and small children in the basement of the building, noting that it could take too long for people to reach the first floor to safely exit the building if anything dangerous occurred. He asked Nigro to conduct an immediate inspection of the existing structure and to review the approved plans if possible.

He also wrote a letter to the DOB June 13 calling for an immediate stop work order.

Flushing resident Paul Graziano, an urban planning consultant, said the current state of affairs poses a danger for children.

“The destruction of this fine house in order to create additional space, which may be illegal and dangerous for children, solely for the financial profit of this daycare company is completely unacceptable and, if true, they should immediately lose their license in addition to any fines incurred,” Graziano said.

The property currently has two open DOB violations, including a March 2015 violation for failing to file the 2013 annual boiler inspection report and a May 2014 violation for failing to file the 2012 inspection report, according to the DOB property profile.

Out of 12 complaints, there is one open complaint entered June 29 due to intent to revoke approval and permits.

The other 11 complaints, whose inspections took place between September 2001 and July 2012, addressed such problems as an illegal conversion on the second floor with tenants living there, running a preschool in a residential zone and an enormous number of children being dropped off every morning.

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

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