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Work continues at Garaufis house as city restores permits

By Mark Hallum

Work has been allowed to continue on the land where the Bayside house formerly owned by federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis once stood.

A stop work order for 218-15 40th Ave. was issued in July due to the Alt-1 permit being revoked for work that exceeded the scope of the original plans. The violations have been dismissed, according to a Department of Buildings spokesman, and a new Alt-1 permit was issued in mid-August and took effect in mid-September.

It was not clear why the violations were dropped.

Controversy about the house began brewing in April after neighbor Bonnie Skala Kiladitis noticed the renovations to the four-story house taking a turn for the extreme. Within days, the home had been reduced to the first floor.

An Alt-1 permit requires at least 50 percent of the original structure to be retained during the renovation of any home. The DOB, however, reissued an Alt-1 in this case on the basis that the foundations were still intact and because the building plans had been revised and approved for an Alt-1, a DOB spokesman said. He pointed out that it is at the discretion of a plan examiner to determine how much of the original structure needs to remain to call for an Alt-1.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has kept an eye on the situation with the property and said the DOB informed him the new Alt-1 permit is what is known as a Big Alt-1 and allows renovation to exceed the usual 50 percent required to be retained.

“Now we just have to make sure that the owner follows through on what the permit says,” Avella said. “They should have done a better job in the first place of analyzing the first Alt-1, and making sure the letter of the law was followed. You know, any developer or property owner when remodeling a house does what the permit says. There’s a reason building and zoning code exist. Unfortunately, the DOB does not do a good job, and it relies on the community to raise the issue, which I think is really a backwards approach.”

However, a DOB spokesman said in August the owners no longer qualified for an alteration permit and would be required to apply for a new building permit.

The stately home was purchased for $1.5 million by a real estate agent from New Jersey who identified herself as Lisa and said it would be occupied only by her family. Lisa, who did not disclose her last name, was baffled by the opposition her building project attracted from the neighborhood.

“There’s a lot of new construction in Bayside. I don’t know why there’s concern over our house,” she said back in April, referring to other projects in her neighborhood.

But many held the home in high regard and contended that it had historical value which cannot be replaced.

“It infuriates me as to how they have bastardized that gorgeous house,” Richard Doyle, a nearby resident said. “You know it really gets me, because they know what they are doing when they tear down too much of a house and won’t keep with the plans. I get tired of people being able to do this and the [DOB] does nothing.”

Garaufis’ house is believed to have been built circa 1890 and was the one of the personal residences of the Lawrence family, influential members of the early Bayside community. A study conducted by Bayside Historical Society Treasurer Paul Graziano found the Lawrence Estate eligible for the National and State Register of Historic Places. This recognition, however, carries no protection from demolition or alteration.

Kiladitis, daughter of late community activist Frank Skala, got elected officials involved in the fate of the house on 40th Avenue and looked to it as an example of a zoning violation epidemic in the community.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

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