Deserted house in Queens prompts community involvement
by Andrew Shilling
Feb 06, 2013 | 1881 views | 0 0 comments | 823 823 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Unfinished housing project at 47-04 198th St. in Auburndale stands abandoned for several years.
Unfinished housing project at 47-04 198th St. in Auburndale stands abandoned for several years.
State Senator Tony Avella calls for the demolition of the project
State Senator Tony Avella calls for the demolition of the project

Helen Meskouris, 85, has lived in her Auburndale home since 1956, but for the last seven years her new neighbor has proved to be a nightmare.

When her neighbor sold the house at 47-04 198th St. just over seven years ago, the new owner brought a whole new tone to the block with a poorly planned four-unit project that never received permits to finish what was started, leaving an unkempt building directly across from Meskouris’ front stoop.

While walking across her new neighbor’s driveway like she always did in the past, the owner sharply asked her, “What are you doing here,” and told her, “This is my property,” she recalled.

“From then on he came in several times, saying he wanted to buy some property,” she said.

Though the still-unidentified owner never got the additional real estate, the current project owner, which according to the Department of Buildings (DOB) now belongs to Parsons Realty LLC, never completed the initial developments.

State Senator Tony Avella joined members of the Auburndale Improvement Association in front of the now-abandoned building last week, calling on the city to take control of the land, demolish the property and enforce the $100,000 of fines incurred from the Environmental Control Board.

“This is clearly on one of the worst abandoned properties in all of Queens,” Avella said of the building. “It has been an eyesore in the Auburndale community for seven years now, and these conditions are simply unacceptable, especially for those residents who live right next to these properties.”

Avella said he has contacted the departments of Health and Mental Hygiene, Sanitation and Buildings over the conditions, however they have gone “unabated.”

According DOB, the four-unit building - which is currently littered with trash, overgrown with weeds and only recently boarded up to prevent foul play in the stripped construction site - has defaulted on 33 violations since 2007 for failure to comply with building and construction codes.

Neighbors say the construction was never finished because of poor planning, and that the owner stopped development when the city told him the plans for a driveway were not up to code.

“This should not be allowed to happen in a middle-class, residential neighborhood,“ Avella said. “It’s a fire hazard, it’s a safety hazard, it’s a health hazard and it affects their property values as well.”

Avella and his task force have found nearly 100 other similar properties throughout the city that are also are not up to code.

“These properties are blights in our communities and the city needs to take action to protect its taxpaying homeowners,” he explained. “It is readily apparent in this situation that the city must demolish these houses.

The building and land was sold at public auction in 2012 for $1.475 million.

“Because there is no reasonable way for the owners of the site to obtain certificates of occupancy for the four homes, and the homes have remained vacant for over seven years, the DOB should condemn these structures,” said Henry Euler, first vice president of the Auburndale Improvement Association. “The owners must take responsibility for this property.”

Euler said the association and Community Board 11 have been monitoring the situation over the last year, and now have had enough of the disarray and confusion from the lack of visible response from the city.

He is calling for the owners to make good on their fines and the city to fix their policy for dealing these types of problems in the future.

“Unfortunately the problems have not been resolved to the community’s satisfaction and benefit,” Euler said. “The structures should be torn down and new legal structures should be constructed if the owner wishes to build again.

Meskouris remembers a time when she would step out onto her front stoop to a beautiful home and neighbors who knew her well, and does not want this to be the way she remembers her home of 60 years.

“Every Friday he would knock on my door and bring me a bunch of fruits and vegetables,” Meskouris said of the previous owner. “He had every fruit tree spread out all along his property.”

Today, vandals frequently hang around the property, and she often witnesses “droves” of suspicious activity.

“Who wants to live next to this mess,” she asked. “I wont even come to my door at night.”

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