Tag Archives: Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association

Pols rally with homeowners for Broadway-Flushing landmark status

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of The Broadway Flushing Homeowner's Association

Local politicians are turning up the pressure on the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) to have much of the historic Broadway-Flushing neighborhood recognized as a city landmark district.

The Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association held a rally Saturday in Flushing’s Bowne Park to draw attention to their renewed fight to have their area recognized by the LPC.

A previous attempt to get the neighborhood recognized only resulted in an offer to designate a few homes with landmark status, a compromise that was not accepted by residents.

The community is renewing its efforts due to a change in leadership at the LPC last year.

State Senator Tony Avella and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein were in attendance during the Sept. 12 rally, along with multiple civic groups including the Auburndale Improvement Association, Queens Civic Congress, North Flushing Civic, Northeast Flushing Civic, Bay Terrace Alliance, We Love Whitestone civic and the Bayside Historical Society.

Borough President Melinda Katz was unable to attend, but in a statement said the effort to designate Broadway-Flushing as a historical district has her support. She applauded everyone who has shown commitment to protecting the character of the area.

“The architecture and residential atmosphere found in this part of Queens makes it a special place to live and raise a family. It has also created a shared sense of community,” Katz said. “It would be a shame if we missed the opportunity to protect and preserve this wonderful community for future generations.”

Avella charged that it was unfortunate that the LPC had yet to recognize the threat of Broadway-Flushing losing its distinctive qualities.

“Broadway-Flushing is one of the only remaining New York City bastions of single-family homes on wide avenues and quiet residential landscapes,” Avella said. “We must act now to preserve it, or risk leaving nothing left to save.”

Richard Hourahan of the Queens Historical Society previously told The Courier that the Broadway-Flushing area was developed in the first two decades of the 20th century. The introduction of the Long Island Rail Road pushed the local character from a rural landscape to a suburban community.

Although the area is listed on State and National Registers of Historic Places, residents are seeking landmark status because this would give the structures within its boundary protection against overdevelopment under New York City Landmarks Law.

Meanwhile, Councilman Paul Vallone showed his support for the efforts to landmark the neighborhood earlier in the week, taking a walking tour of Broadway-Flushing with LPC Chair Meenakshi Srinivasan last Thursday.

“No one can deny the unique and historical qualities of the homes that have been meticulously maintained and preserved by the proud homeowners in Broadway-Flushing,” Vallone said.

(Photo courtesy of Councilman Paul Vallone’s office)


Flushing civic group objects to permanent street closing for pedestrian plaza

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

Updated Wednesday Aug. 5

A proposal to close off street traffic for a pedestrian plaza off Flushing‘s Northern Boulevard was met with opposition from neighborhood groups concerned that the change will worsen existing congestion and traffic problems.

The Korean American Association in Queens (KAAQ) is working to place a pedestrian plaza adjacent to a small park known as Leonard Square. The proposal will close off traffic at all times on Roosevelt Avenue between 155th Street and Northern Boulevard.

The plan was submitted to the DOT in the winter of 2014, and a public workshop was held on April 16 to solicit public feedback. A trial street closure on April 18 was deemed a success by the KAAQ after they received no resident complaints.

The overall contention against the project, however, comes from members of the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association, which charged that it would worsen traffic congestion and cause safety concerns.

“We already have enough traffic and problems with too much congestion. [Closing] another street is only going to add to that and we need every artery,” said Janet McCreesh, a former president of the homeowners group.

McCreesh also asserted that there were more appropriate sites for community gathering spots nearby, such as Bowne Park, which is 0.4 mile away.

“How safe and clean will it be to encourage people to sit in between Northern Boulevard and one of the biggest and busiest parking lots in the neighborhood?” McCreesh asked.

Members of the association have voted to send another letter to Community Board 7, which may publicly discuss the issue as soon as Sept. 21.

Councilman Paul Vallone, a supporter who is working with the KAAQ on the project, recalled a similar plaza successfully established in Douglaston, and said that he expects the same benefits for the community around Leonard Square.

“Any group, such as the Korean-American Association of Queens, is able to apply to the city to maintain a pedestrian plaza with the goal of creating an open area for everyone to sit, rest, socialize and enjoy public space,” Vallone said. “I also believe this plaza will have a positive effect on safety and combat the clear history of traffic incidents at this very congested site.”

Paul Yoo, president of the KAAQ, believes the homeowners association objected to the proposal because they are misinformed on its potential effect on neighborhood parking and traffic. While around 8 to 10 spots of street parking would be lost if the street were blocked off, the KAAQ is working with the DOT to come up with alternative solutions to retain parking in the neighborhood.



Yoo said that if the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association had made an effort to reach out to the KAAQ, they could have collaborated to make compromises.

“They didn’t come to the workshop. They haven’t seen the work we’re doing,” said Yoo. “They didn’t contact us. They should come and talk to us.”

The next trial street closing of Roosevelt Avenue between 155th and Northern Boulevard is planned for Friday, Aug. 7, and will have festivities such as clowns, a bouncy castle, face-painting, balloons and stilt walkers to call attention to the initiative.

Editors note: An earlier version misidentified Janet McCreesh as the president of the Broadway Flushing Homeowners Association, and incorrectly listed the date of the Community Board 7 meeting in which this issue will be discussed. We apologize for any confusion.


Open house tour given at alleged illegal hotel in Flushing

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

State Senator Tony Avella was given a tour of an alleged illegal hotel in Broadway-Flushing as part of the owner’s effort to demonstrate their intention to use the building as a family residence.

The senator had previously appeared at the home, located at 35-20 156th St., to attend a rally planned by the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association drawing attention to allegations that the home is being renovated to house a transient hotel with 14 bedrooms.

While around 80 people had been in attendance at the demonstration, as well as several local media outlets, the owners of the home were not notified in time to make an appearance on their own behalf. As a way to reach out to the community, Robert Wong, a lawyer hired by the Yang family, set up the meeting attended by Avella, local urban planner Paul Graziano, owner Qin Jin Yang and her husband, and the project’s architect, Shiming Tam.

“They want to carry on with the construction, but complaints are pouring in every day,” Tam said. “And the inspectors are forced to come here, and they pick on little things to justify why they are here.”

On April 27, the Department of Buildings (DOB) notified Qin Jin Yang of their intent to revoke the original building approval because of what deem a “questionable layout for a single family residence.” As part of the tour, the senator was led through the skeleton of a structure, with unfinished walls which afforded peeks of the street outside and a second floor which still had open holes straight through to the level below.

Avella said that he would be willing to discuss the matter further with the family to come to a conclusion.

“I appreciate the fact that you reached out,” Avella said. “That always shows good intentions.”

The Yangs originally submitted a plan for the home to have 14 bedrooms in March 2014, which was approved. After deciding that they wanted fewer bedrooms, the family amended the site plan to include 10 bedrooms and submitted it in April 2015. That site plan was rejected because it had fewer than the 18 bedrooms listed on a 1978 certificate of occupancy. According to Wong, the Yangs will submit a new plan, again with about 10 bedrooms, but the family wanted to first settle any remaining public contention.

Since 1989, the home has racked up 50 complaints with the DOB, but 42 of these occurred before the current owners came into control of the house in October 2013. Many of those complaints have similar allegations of the one-family home being illegally converted to accommodate transient hotel rooms or multiple separate dwellings.

Robert Hanophy, president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, has said that when the most recent renovations began, residents feared that they were in another battle against an illegal hotel in their neighborhood.

When asked if he would attend the tour of the home with Senator Avella, Hanophy told The Courier that he felt there was no need to participate because the association did not plan to pursue the matter further if the Yang’s moved in as a single family.

Although the signs may indicate that the community may have been wrong about 35-20 156 St., illegal conversions have been so pervasive in Queens that in March 1997 the Department of Buildings created the Queens Quality of Life Unit (QOL Unit) to oversee the increasing problem.

According to a report by the city Department of Buildings under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, investigating illegal conversions can be a challenging process because inspectors can be denied access to a property by its owner. The inspector would then have to get an access warrant, which can be difficult or nearly impossible to obtain. In 2008, the QOL Unit did not receive access to nearly 40 percent of properties for which they received complaints.


Broadway-Flushing residents renew fight for landmark status

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

State Senator Tony Avella and residents of Broadway-Flushing are continuing the fight to have the neighborhood designated a landmark district.

A previous attempt to get the neighborhood recognized by the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) only resulted in an offer to designate a few homes with landmark status,  a compromise which was not accepted by residents. The community is renewing its efforts due to a change in leadership at the LPC last year.

Although the area is listed on State and National Registers of Historic Places, residents are seeking landmark status because this would give the structures within its boundary protection against overdevelopment under New York City Landmarks Law.

“This community has, through the civic association, fought to maintain the quality of life, going to court, spending their own money, for probably two decades at this point,” Avella said. “They shouldn’t have to do that. That should be the city’s job, protecting their neighborhood.”

According to Richard Hourahan of the Queens Historical Society, the development of the Broadway-Flushing area came at a time when the local character was changing from rural to suburban with the introduction of the Long Island Rail Road. Most of the homes in the area were built in the same time period in the first two decades of the 20th century.

“It’s a historical epoch that has been identified as being a progressive era [in the] United States,” Hourahan said. “It was the beginning of suburbanization of Queens.”

Maria Becce, a member of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association, said that suburban life in a big city offers the best of both worlds and this an important aspect of the area.

“Instead of having to move to New Jersey or Long Island, or upstate New York, Westchester, here we are, 21 minutes by Long Island Rail Road to Penn Station, and I get exactly what I’m looking for — a one-family neighborhood, with a front garden, backyard, and where there are trees on the street and neighbors know each other,” Becce explained.

Sandi Viviani, a former president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association said achieving landmark status would preserve Broadway-Flushing’s history even after the current residents are gone.

“This is one of the most important things we are trying to do is to preserve this community for generations to come,” she said.


Community shows strong support against alleged Flushing hotel

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photos by Alina Suriel

Scores of residents attended a rally Thursday that state Senator Tony Avella and the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association held against a single-family home they allege will be turned into an illegal hotel on 156th Street.

“We will not stand by and watch this property be turned into an illegal hotel that disrupts the lives of each and every one of the residents in this neighborhood,” said Avella before a crowd of about 80 people. “The work that was approved for this site authorizes a single-family residence only, but all signs point to a hotel.”

Paul Graziano, a local urban planner and consultant who is heavily involved in the efforts against the house, said that much of the suspicion stems from the interior design of the house, which he believes indicates the house’s true intended purpose. Graziano alleged a room situated in the center of the first floor seemed positioned as if to host evening musical events, and that that a half-wall built into the home was designed to serve as a reception desk for the residence.

“Single-family homes do not have a reception areas,” Graziano said.

There were so many people at the rally that the crowd spilled onto the street of the otherwise quiet neighborhood, with onlookers peering into the commotion to view signs with messages such as “single-family only” and “enforce zoning.”

“Definitely there’s something up here, and that’s why I’m concerned,” said Tom Otto, a neighborhood resident. “I wouldn’t want to see this happening here, or anywhere else for that matter.”

Members of the homeowner’s association have said that if the building department were able to inspect the building, the issue would be determined much more easily. According to a report by the city Department of Buildings under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, investigating illegal conversions can be a challenging process because inspectors can be denied access to a property by its owner. The inspector would then have to get an access warrant, which can be difficult to nearly impossible to obtain.

Avella said that this issue has spurred him to introduce legislation which would require anyone who applies for a construction permit to allow the Department of Buildings access to the property whenever the agency should request it. According to Avella, if access is not granted, building permits for the any application will be revoked.

The association has been circulating information that says the three-floor home, which is at 35-20 156th St., will be renovated to have 14 bedrooms and eight bathrooms to accommodate visitors at an illegal hotel. The owners of the home, however, maintain that they will be living there with their own extended family of nine people.

In a released statement, the family said that although original plans for the home had 14 bedrooms, they sent in an amended plan on April 15 to reduce the number of bedrooms to ten which was rejected by the Department of Buildings.

Robert W. Wong, an attorney whom the family retained Wednesday night, said that his clients are recent  immigrants from China, some of whom do not speak fluent English and cannot understand why they are under so much scrutiny. He said that he is looking to meet with members of the association and Avella to straighten out the situation, and that his clients have good intentions which have been distorted by outside assumptions.

“Ms. Yang together with her family are hardworking Chinese immigrants from the Fouzhou province of China,” Wong said.


Confusion arises after allegations of illegal Flushing hotel

| asuriel@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Robert Hanophy Jr.

Questions and rumors continue to fly about a mystery home expansion in Flushing.

Although members of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association have issues with renovations on a single-family home they believe will create a transient hotel on 156th Street, the property’s owner was surprised to learn that these allegations were being spread about what he claims will be his family home.

The Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association has been circulating information that alleges that a three-floor home at 35-20 156th St. will be renovated to have 14 bedrooms and eight bathrooms and operate as an illegal hotel.

Robert Hanophy Jr., president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners’ Association, said that he did not get a chance to speak to the Yang family, but that there would be no need for a rally if they were indeed planning to live in the house.

Until they get confirmation that this is the case, though, the demonstration is still set to take place. Hanophy said that the new owners are welcome to attend the rally on Thursday or to meet with the association at a more convenient time to speak directly to the community.

“What we are doing as the homeowners’ association is trying to maintain the neighborhood as single-family residences,” said Hanophy, “whether it’s grandma who lives alone or a family of 15 kids.”

The structure is located in a zoning district designated for only detached, single-family homes. Qira Yang, whose mother, Qiujin Yang is the property’s owner, said the situation is all a misunderstanding because his family does plan to live there once renovations are complete.

“We kind of have a big family here, so my mom just wants to have a room for every child she has,” said Yang, who said that his elderly mother has four adult children. The family plans to grow into the house as his generation gets married and has their own offspring.

Yang said he was not aware of a rally set to take place in front of the house with the homeowners’ association and state Senator Tony Avella Thursday afternoon, and that no one contacted him to tell them of their plans. According to Yang, the renovations taking place will actually reduce the number of bedrooms to 10 and make the rooms larger than they had been before.

Yang said that he was aware of the house’s history as an alleged hotel. The house has 50 recorded complaints with the city Department of Buildings, 42 of which occurred before the current owners came into control of the house in October 2013. Some of the complaints date from as far back as 1989, many of which indicate that the home had been illegally converted into multiple separate dwellings or transformed to accommodate transient hotel rooms.

While there is an order to stop work on the renovations based on one of the most recent complaints, these are related to minor infractions, including construction work that did not conform to the set plan and workers smoking cigarettes on the job site. The other complaints that were recorded during Yang’s ownership dealt largely with construction being done without the proper permits posted.

Avella could not immediately be reached for comment.



Star of Queens: Janet McCreesh, president, Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


COMMUNITY SERVICE: Janet McCreesh serves as the president of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association, which serves to unite and encourage all homeowners and residents to improve and maintain the community. In addition to her duties as president, McCreesh is also an executive assistant for a construction company in New York City. McCreesh is the mother of four children, and volunteers for the alumni association at their school, St. Andrew Avellino.

BACKGROUND: McCreesh has lived in Queens her whole life. Born and raised in Sunnyside, she attended school at St. Teresa’s in Woodside and later attended St. John’s University. For the last 16 years, McCreesh and her family have lived in North Flushing.

FAVORITE MEMORY: “My favorite memory was when City Planning wanted to upzone Northern Boulevard to allow buildings up to a height of six stories. I had been mostly uninvolved in the community and got together with some friends and we were able to get over 600 signatures on a petition to the city requesting they not change the zoning on Northern Boulevard,” explained McCreesh. “When the executive staff of the BFHA found out what we were doing they contacted me and they explained that we were going about it all wrong.  After that meeting the plan changed and we were able to negotiate with City Planning. Even though they changed the zoning, it was such a minor change that the community remained low density with low building heights.  It was a great success for our community and I realized people do make a difference,” said McCreesh. 

BIGGEST CHALLENGE: McCreesh says that her biggest challenge has been educating homeowners about the Rickert Finlay covenant that is attached to their deeds. “One of the most important ones is no fences within 20 feet of the property line.  The original developers of our neighborhood intended it to have open streetscapes with a suburban feel,” explained McCreesh. “We send newsletters and have regular meetings but there is always a greedy developer/individual lurking in the background trying to make a profit by subdividing lots (which is not permitted) just to get two houses and double their profits.”

INSPIRATION: “My inspiration has been the members of the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association,” said McCreesh. “I have never met a more passionate and hardworking group of people who volunteer their time, money and energy for the sole purpose of protecting and maintaining our beautiful community.”