Neighbors rally against changes to historic Douglaston home


| mchan@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan
THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

Residents and preservationists rallied to save a historic Douglaston house from proposed changes.

Neighboring residents of a historic Douglaston house rallied last Friday to save the 19th century remnant from proposed changes.

The new owner of the 38-60 Douglaston Parkway site has submitted plans to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) to significantly alter the house. The department issued a “partial job” permit to property owner Xiu Jun Zhai on March 4 to change the number of stories in the building, according to an application the DOB approved in February.

The plans were not specific but called for “vertical and horizontal enlargement” of the 1,800-square-foot structure and partial demolition that “affects the exterior building envelope,” the application said.

“We’re talking about saving a tiny bit of history,” said Paul Di Benedetto, president of the Bayside Historical Society. “Once it’s gone, it never ever will be replaced. If you erase the history of an area, then you take away its character and its soul.”

The house, which sits on about 9,000-square-feet of land, dates back to the 1860s. It is located within the proposed Douglaston Historic District Extension, which was calendared for landmark designation in 2008. The approximate 20 homes in the extension mark the area’s transition from its rural origins to smaller farms and suburban estates, preservationists said.

Elisabeth de Bourbon, spokesperson for the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC), said the agency is still “actively considering” giving landmark designation to the extension.

Zhai bought the property last October for $660,000, according to State Senator Tony Avella. The building has been vacant for five years.

According to a source who did not want to be named, the property owner plans on making changes only to the inside of the home to make it “livable.” He does not want to alter the building’s exterior, the source said.

But the city allowing the new homeowner to alter the historic home sets a precedent, Avella said.

“It’s like a domino effect,” the legislator said. Before you know it, you’ve lost the character and the historic nature of this very wonderful neighborhood.”

 

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