By Mark Hallum
Work on the historic home formerly belonging to federal Judge Nicholas Garaufis is nearly complete with none of the original features of the classic 19th century structure remaining and complaints continuing to mount.
A modern brick structure with multiple entrances has risen in the place of the large, stately home that originally belonged to the Lawrence family, who owned an estate covering most of what is now Bayside and left a legacy which preservationists have attempted to maintain.
A neighborhood feud began in April 2016, led by Bonnie Skala Kiladitis, as the property was purchased and plans for renovation were posted on the city Dept. of Buildings site by the new owner with a permit requiring at least half the original structure be retained. Work on the four-story house, however, quickly took a turn for the extreme. Within days, the home had been reduced to the first floor.
“My family has owned our house for 75 years. I am the fourth generation to live here with no intent to sell.
Now I open the front door to look at this monstrosity across the street. It is such a shame to see what replaced Judge Garaufis former, historic home,” Kiladitis said. “It is not for me to say if I like the look of what is now there or if it fits in to the neighborhood. There are no laws on the style of how you design a house you pay for. But to now have a neighbor now who has blatantly disregarded the law time and time again when demolishing and rebuilding a house is disheartening. The driveway is above grade. There are occupants living there without a Certificate of Occupany. What was built does not match the filed plans. Why even have a Department of Buildings if developers can and do whatever they want?”
The most recent violation on the property shows people have been living in the home without a certificate of occupancy for which the DOB cited them on Nov. 5.
The home was purchased for $1.5 million by a real estate agent from New Jersey named Lisa Huang, who said it would be occupied only by her family.
Huang was baffled by the outcry over her renovations at the time when neighbors began reaching out to the BaysideTimes and elected officials, saying that construction in Bayside was nothing new and her property was no exception.
The plans showed there would be an extension to the front of the house by a few feet.
A stop work order for 218-15 40th Ave. was issued in July 2016 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 that took effect in mid-September of that year.
It was not clear why the violations were dropped.
A DOB spokesman said in August of 2016 the owners no longer qualified for an alteration permit and would be required to apply for a new building permit.
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 spokesman from the agency 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.
Another stop work order was issued on the property by the DOB in July 2017 for plumbing, but was rescinded in late October.
The land was split with a 40-by-100-foot plot going up for sale, but this parcel is still on the market.
“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 former 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.
Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) introduced legislation in December 2016 to address the “limbo” period between the issuance of a notice to revoke on a construction site and the point at which the permits are officially revoked, during which time property owners can push to compltete as much work as possible.
“Our community will not stand idly on the sidelines when homeowners and developers come into our neighborhoods and deceitfully try to circumvent building codes,” Vallone said in 2016. “This type of blatant disregard of building permit requirements and deliberate over-development will never be accepted in our community.”
Among other elected officials who fought for stronger regulations and oversight from the DOB were state Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who each reached out to the Department of Buildings to see that the activity of the current owners of the historic property was stopped in its tracks
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 mhall