Tag Archives: Department of Buildings

Neighbors rally against changes to historic Douglaston home


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

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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Audit finds Department of Buildings is ‘incapable of improving itself’


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

The city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) is falling down on the job.

“The Buildings Department is just dysfunctional and incapable of improving itself,” said Comptroller John Liu. “Its inability to perform basic tasks … bode poorly not just for the department, but for residents and neighborhoods too.”

A recent audit by the comptroller’s office found the DOB is slow in responding to complaints, and has not improved or resolved problems found in earlier audits.

A 2009 audit found DOB inspectors failed to gain access to nearly 40 percent of properties they received complaints about in 2008. The department also sought warrants for less than one percent of inaccessible properties and did not follow up on vacate orders.

Since then, the rate of failed inspection attempts has more than doubled, according to a new audit. The department also only partially implemented a handful of 14 recommendations made in the last audit, Liu said.

But a DOB spokesperson said many recommendations in the report have already been implemented. The department has also launched citywide safety campaigns, a task force to inspect illegal dwellings and “undercover investigations” to target illegal apartments for rent.

“The department is doing more than ever to combat the dangers of illegal conversions,” the spokesperson said. “The department has aggressively targeted illegal apartments most at-risk for fire — with a vacate rate nearly five times greater than before.”

Roughly 20,000 complaints, mostly from Queens, regarding illegal conversions get fielded through the department annually, the DOB said.

But grievances about illegal conversions garner a B rating on the DOB’s priority-arranged scale of complaints — the same level earned by improper fencing, exposed elevator shafts and malfunctioning boilers.

Illegal conversions have been the root of many fire-related deaths at home, including a 2011 blaze that killed one and injured five in Woodside.

 

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Operator, contractor cited in Long Island City crane collapse


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

The Department of Buildings (DOB) has issued 12 violations to several parties involved in the Long Island City crane collapse that injured seven workers earlier this month.

According to the DOB, combined, these violations have a minimum penalty of $132,800, and $64,000 of that amount was issued to the crane’s operator, Paul Geer.

“Cranes are complex pieces of equipment that serve as the driving force of any major construction project. They must be properly operated and maintained, and when that fails to occur, there can be serious consequences. In this case, neither the crane operator nor his supervisors made sure the operation was being performed according to approved plans,” said DOB Commissioner Robert LiMandri.

A preliminary investigation by the DOB found that Geer tried to lift 23,900 pounds of lumber at the 46-10 Center Boulevard site, more than double the crane’s weight capacity. The DOB also said that that Geer couldn’t see what he was picking up and was lifting the materials outside the approved loading zone.

Geer and the contractor, Cross Country Construction, LLC, received five violations for operating a crane in an unsafe manner, failure to inspect equipment prior to operation, work that does not conform to approved construction documents, failure to safeguard all persons and property affected by construction operations, and failure to post proper load chart for crane.

The site safety manager, Arthur Covelli, and the property owner, TF Cornerstone, were also each issued a violation for failure to safeguard all persons and property affected by construction operations.

 

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License of operator in Long Island City crane collapse suspended


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

The man operating the crane that collapsed at a Long Island City construction site Wednesday, injuring seven, has had his license suspended by the city, said the Department of Buildings (DOB).

A preliminary investigation by the DOB found that operator Paul Geer tried to lift 23,900 pounds of lumber at the 46-10 Center Boulevard site, more than double the crane’s weight capacity.

The DOB also said that that Geer couldn’t see what he was picking up and was lifting the materials outside the approved loading zone. A Stop Work Order for crane operations remains in effect while the DOB’s investigation continues.

The crane’s owner, New York Crane, was also involved in a deadly collapse on the Upper East Side. James Lomma, who owns the company, was tried for manslaughter, but acquitted last April.

During the trial, prosecutors claimed that the crane’s operator tried to lift too much weight and that Lomma used a cheap, unqualified Chinese company to do repairs.

A representative from New York Crane declined to answer questions, stating that they “had been advised not to speak at this time.”

The building where the accident took place is being developed by TF Cornerstone, the same company that has overseen several towers built as part of the revitalization of the Long Island City waterfront.

“Site safety is always our first priority as it relates to construction, and we are cooperating fully with all relevant authorities to try and determine what caused this occurrence,” read a statement from the developer.
Work at the site was subcontracted to Cross Country Construction, according to a TF Cornerstone spokesperson.

According to a spokesperson for Elmhurst Hospital, the seven injured workers, most of whom were in their 40s and 50s, were all treated and released by the end of last week.


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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 48. Winds from the NW at 10 to 15 mph. Thursday night: Clear in the evening, then partly cloudy. Low of 36. Winds less than 5 mph. Chance of rain 20%.

EVENT OF THE DAY: Urinetown: The Musical

Winner of three Tony awards and one of the most uproariously funny musicals in recent years, Urinetown is a hilarious tale of greed, corruption, love and revolution in a time when water is worth its weight in gold. In a Gotham-like city, a terrible water shortage, caused by a 20-year drought, has led to a government-enforced ban on private toilets. Performances start Thursday, January 10 and continue through Saturday, January 26 at The Secret Theatre in Long Island City. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Crane collapses in Long Island City, injuring seven

Seven workers suffered minor injuries when a crane collapsed at a Long Island City building site. Read more: Queens Courier

Cuomo takes aim at guns, Sandy relief during State of the State address

Governor Andrew Cuomo has vowed New York will become the nation’s leader in gun safety laws in wake of recent shootings. Read more: Queens Courier

Seastreak Wall Street Ferry saw other problems before crash

The Seastreak Wall Street ferry that crashed in Lower Manhattan Wednesday has had a few minor incidents in recent years. Read more: CBS New York

Cheating teacher the answer man: probe

A Queens elementary- school teacher brazenly helped fourth-graders cheat on the state’s high-stakes English exams, even though there was a second proctor in the room, investigators found. Read more: New York Post

Breezy Point couple surprised with newly renovated home after it was destroyed by Sandy

An octogenarian Queens couple whose house was ravaged by Superstorm Sandy received a surprise gift on Wednesday — a brand new home. Read more: New York Daily News

Report: Queens Native Will Likely Head Up Treasury Dept.

President Barack Obama is reportedly set to tap a native New Yorker to serve as the new head of the United States Treasury Department. Read more: NY1

NYC firm hit hard on 9/11 gives $10M in Sandy aid

The New York City brokerage firm that lost 658 employees in the Sept. 11 terror attacks announced that it will “adopt” 19 schools in communities hit hard by Superstorm Sandy and will give each family in those schools $1,000 to spend as they see fit. Read more: AP

Crane collapses in Long Island City, injuring seven


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

Seven workers suffered minor injuries when a crane collapsed at a Long Island City building site.

Around 2:20 p.m. today,  firefighters responded to the incident at Center Boulevard and 46th Avenue, where they discovered three workers trapped beneath the fallen crane. According to Deputy Fire Chief Mark Ferran, the trapped individuals were extricated from the scene and taken to an area hospital, along with four other workers who suffered non-life-threatening injuries. No civilians were injured in the crash.

Several dozen workers were at the scene when the crane fell.

According to Ferran, the cause of the crane collapse is under investigation by Department of Buildings (DOB) engineers.

Diana Sanchez saw the crane collapse from her apartment in the building across the street. She said the crane shook as it attempted to lift loads of metal she believed to be too heavy for the device. She grew nervous as she watched the beleaguered apparatus. Then, it snapped.

“Everyone was screaming and running,” she said.

Sanchez said that following the recent collapse of a crane in Manhattan and the increase in construction jobs in Long Island City, she has been concerned about one collapsing nearby for some time.

The Maspeth-based company that manufactures the crane, New York Crane, declined to comment.

The same company was involved in a deadly 2008 crane collapse on the Upper East Side.

Its owner, James Lomma, was charged with manslaughter, but was found not guilty.

The crane from today’s accident was last approved for use by the DOB in October, according to the Daily News.

“Such accidents are avoidable, and I am hopeful a comprehensive investigation will be conducted to discover why today’s frightening incident occurred,” said State Senator Michael Gianaris.

Officials from TF Cornerstone, the building’s developer, were on scene but denied comment on the incident. The building is one of several built by TF Cornerstone as part of the revitalization of the Long Island City waterfront.

Photo Twitter/@UnSweetTee

 

-With additional reporting by Cristabelle Tumola 

 

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Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST

Wednesday: Overcast with a chance of rain in the morning, then partly cloudy. Fog early. High of 54. Breezy. Winds from the NW at 10 to 20 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Low of 34F with a windchill as low as 27. Breezy. Winds from the NNW at 10 to 20 mph.

EVENT of the DAY: Jillian Peña – The Guiding Light

The Guiding Light is a sci-fi religious ballet. It explores religiosity in the balletic body, the desire to believe in something, and the complex relationship of the individual within the group. This sci-fi religious ballet trio explores the uncanny through the multiplication and duplication of the dancers both metaphorically and actually. Starts at 8 p.m. at the Chocolate Factory in Long Island City. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Queens man Ahmed Ferhani pleads guilty to plotting to blow up a string of Manhattan synagogues

A Queens man admitted Tuesday he wanted to “create chaos” by plotting to blow up a string of Manhattan synagogues — giving Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance the first state-level terror conviction under laws passed after the 9/11 attacks. Read more: New York Daily News

Teachers’ union joins chorus of concern about formerly flooded Queens school

The teachers’ union has joined parents in raising concerns about the safety of a Queens school flooded by Sandy. Read more: NY1

Police: Man implicates himself in deadly midtown subway push

Police said Tuesday night that a suspect implicated himself in a shocking subway pushing incident in Manhattan a day earlier that cost a man his life. Read more: CBS New York

New Far Rockaway playground hit by vandal and then again by Superstorm Sandy

This little playground in Far Rockaway has had a tough first year. Before it was even open to the public, the much-needed play space near Beach 29th St. was ravaged by a heartless vandal in March. The city rebuilt it only to see it battered by Superstorm Sandy months later. Read more: New York Daily News

New York City hits Sandy victims with ‘failure to maintain’ property citation

Residents in one Queens neighborhood are crying foul after they were written up for failing to clean up the city’s own mess. It is yet another new complication in life after Superstorm Sandy. Read more: CBS New York

Fiscal cliff offers hint at more defense cuts

House Republicans’ “fiscal cliff” counteroffer to President Barack Obama hints at billions of dollars in military cuts on top of the nearly $500 billion that the White House and Congress backed last year, and even the fiercest defense hawks acknowledge that the Pentagon faces another financial hit. Read more: AP

Mold spawns health concerns in Sandy flood zone


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

DSC_0128w

Homes that withstood Sandy’s rushing water and brutal winds may now be susceptible to another hazard — mold.

According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) flood-damaged homes may have already seen extensive mold growth located under floor tiles, wallpaper and carpeting. The Department of Buildings (DOB) has plans to raze roughly 200 homes in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island that were damaged during the storm, reports said. According to a DOB spokesperson, while the decision to condemn badly damaged houses is based on structural issues, dangerous mold growth is not being taken into consideration.

“[The DOB is] evaluating the structure and stability of buildings,” said the spokesperson. “Mold is a health issue.”

Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder, who has remained outspoken about the lack of government resources sent to badly damaged areas, called for the New York City Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the DOHMH to perform daily air and water quality tests throughout those regions to ensure there are no chance of health risks to the community.

According to Goldfeder, residents have expressed concern over the harmful side effects associated with exposure to mold, sewage leaks and air pollutants.

Retired firefighter Steve Orr’s home was inundated by three feet of water during the storm. Busy assisting residents in Breezy Point and the Rockaways, Orr did not begin repairs on the soaked walls of his home until this past Sunday.

“I didn’t think the mold issue was that big for me, but friends kept saying I needed to take care of it,” said Orr. “The more I heard, the more worried I became.”

Orr, who called the extent of the mold damage in his home is a “seven on a scale of one to 10,” said the government should test for possibly dangerous molds and other threats.

Dr. Robert Mittman, an allergist from Bayside, said mold spores can cause a plethora of sinus issues, including allergies and asthma that could grow uncontrollable. Those not allergic to mold are still at risk for pneumonia and other respiratory conditions like COPD.

Those with illnesses such as cancer and the AIDS virus whose immune systems are diminished and unable fight off infections, are at an incredibly high risk.

“It’s a toxic, toxic issue and [mold] is very hard to get rid of,” said Mittman.

Eradicating mold and salvaging an infiltrated structure requires dehumidification within the first 24 to 48 hours, said Mittman, something very few residents were able to accomplish.

“It’s very hard to get rid of mold at this time,” said Mittman. “The best case scenario is not moving back there and to have the house ripped down completely and rebuilt.”

Community board blocks developer


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Melissa Chan

A notorious Queens developer has hit a roadblock in Bayside after a community board unanimously voted down a variance that would have allowed him to complete construction in the area.

Tommy Huang — whose properties have racked up a laundry list of complaints and violations, according to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB) — was denied variance approval by Community Board 11, meaning he may not be able to finish constructing four single-family homes in Bayside.

The properties in question — located at 39-39 223rd Street and 39-01, 39-15 and 39-19 Mia Drive — have been a problem site for years, local leaders said. The 223rd Street site has accumulated 93 complaints and 46 violations from city agencies so far, according to the DOB.

The controversial builder’s “shoddy” developments have also been allegedly tied to the death of an immigrant worker last year in Elmhurst when a 20-foot faulty concrete wall constructed by Huang’s company collapsed on top of him, State Senator Tony Avella said.

“[He] is no stranger to the Queens community. He is infamous in engaging in unscrupulous building practices on a repeated basis, with his unsafe construction practices dating back almost 20 years,” said Avella. “Previous patterns of behavior are the best indicator of future behavior.”

According to Community Board 11’s district manager Susan Seinfeld, board members felt the work permits Huang received back in 2004 were obtained “erroneously and improperly to begin with.”

“It was a misuse of the zoning done purposely,” she said.

The development was also deemed an “interior lot” and not a “through-lot,” officials said, which means Huang may be violating zoning resolutions if he does not include a 30-foot rear yard as required for the site.

The variance application will still need to go through the borough president’s office and then to the Board of Standards and Appeals, Seinfeld said, but there is currently a stop work order on the homes, which are built but not completely finished.

“This was a recommendation to the Board of Standards and Appeals to please not approve the variance because it was wrong to begin with,” Seinfeld said.

‘House of Horrors’ still a problem in Woodhaven


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Some people in Woodhaven are still worried about what has been labelled the “House of Horrors.”

Residents voiced continued concerns at the September meeting of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) about the house at 87-19 90th Street, where last year an 18-year-old was murdered.

The Department of Buildings (DOB) recently sealed the back door of the house with concrete blocks, WRBA President Ed Wendell said. The DOB left before the cement had dried, however, and vandals kicked in the bricks.

The problem with the house, according to Community Affairs officer Jose Severino of the 102nd Precinct, was that the house has been foreclosed and is owned by a bank. This means if the police do make an arrest for trespassing, a representative from the bank has to sign an affidavit for the trespassing charge, he said. Because many of the banks are from out of state, it is nearly impossible to get a bank representative to comply; as a result, the suspects must be let go after a certain amount of time.

Severino went on to say this was a nationwide problem as more houses are foreclosed and left dormant by banks.

Assemblymember Mike Miller suggested collecting a list of foreclosed homes, finding out which banks owned the houses, and setting up a hotline so a bank representative is always available to sign an affidavit. Miller said he would also contact the district attorney’s office to see what options there are.

 

Queens tops city in illegal conversions


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Photo by Michael Pantelidis

Some landlords attempting to maximize profits are illegally converting spaces at a potentially deadly cost.

Hazardous homes, transformed from single-family residences into multi-unit dwellings, have residents throughout Queens worried that faulty wiring and unsafe plumbing could cause fires, floods and possibly the loss of human lives. A majority of these residences, predominantly installed in cellars and attics, lack a secondary means of egress and can prevent tenants from escaping during an emergency.

According to Department of Buildings (DOB) spokesperson Tony Sclafani, the agency fields roughly 20,000 complaints regarding illegal conversions annually, most of which come from Queens. To manage the high volume of complaints from the borough, the DOB created a separate component called the Quality of Life Unit, which is solely dedicated to dealing with Queens-based grievances.

Illegal conversions garner a B rating on the DOB’s priority-arranged scale of complaints — the same level earned by improper fencing, exposed elevator shafts and malfunctioning boilers.

Many neighborhoods throughout the borough are speckled with complaints against residences they believe may be unlawfully harboring multiple families. Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, said his organization receives several calls each month regarding illegal conversions.

“If you walk by a two-family house and they have 17 satellite dishes, you know there’s a problem,” he said.

Wendell said those most likely to spot these unlawful abodes are neighbors who are reluctant to turn over their street mates for fear of retaliation.

A Woodhaven resident, who wished to remain anonymous, estimates that he has complained about illegal apartments nearly 80 times. Since moving to the neighborhood in the mid 1980s, the resident said he’s seen his block undergo a transformation as mailboxes triple and parking is suddenly impossible.

“A perfectly good home is sold, then its converted,” said the resident. “You see a lot of construction and then there are a large number of people moving in and out of the same premises. We can see externally by the behavior of the people who move in and out that it’s not being occupied by one or two families.”

The local claimed that the increase in residences and people has caused property values in the neighborhood to plummet, something he said translates to low-priced rentals and low-income residents whom he believes bring crime to the neighborhood and degenerate the quality of the area.

“The DOB says they’re doing the best they can but the problem seems to persist,” said the resident, who said that regardless of the numerous complaints logged, the agency has yet to take action against a single residence.

According to Sclafani, the DOB has intensified its approach to finding illegal homes, conducting undercover investigations to seek them out. Since 2010, the number of entry warrants into unlawful dwellings has doubled and the agency distributed more than 160,000 educational flyers, warning residents about the danger of living in an illegally converted home.

A fire in an illegally converted apartment building on 86th Street in Brooklyn in December 2010 that resulted in the death of five tenants led to the filing of manslaughter charges against the owner, according to Sclafani.

In 2011, a fire raged through a home in Woodside, killing one and injuring five others. Upon investigation, it was uncovered the fire began in an illicit apartment.

The DOB conducts 300,000 citywide inspections annually of construction sites in previously existing buildings to ensure work is up to code. In 2011 more than 12,000 vacate orders were presented where dwellings posed a threat to tenants’ safety.

Douglaston home destroyed by fire had $1,000s in violations


| mchan@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

A Douglaston home under renovation, ravaged last week by a three-alarm fire, had incurred a laundry list of complaints and racked up thousands of dollars in violations, according to city agencies.

The 39-12 Douglaston Parkway dwelling received 44 complaints since March 2008 from callers saying the ongoing construction work being done at the site exceeded the scope of the approved permit, according to the city’s Department of Buildings (DOB).

All complaints were listed as closed, according to the agency, but homeowner David Wei Huang was also pinned for two violations from the DOB and 17 from the Environmental Control Board (ECB). Of those violations, nine were still outstanding, according to the DOB, and were related to the ongoing construction.

Huang was issued a $2,500 fine when construction at the site was found not to be in compliance with approved plans and another $1,200 for failing to safeguard the public and his property. There were other violations for working with an expired permit, the DOB said.

Permits were first issued by the DOB to extend the building horizontally in September 2009, the department said.

The unoccupied home went up in flames last Tuesday, August 14 at around 7:30 p.m., the FDNY said. No injuries were reported.

Bystander Thomas Perrino said he heard three explosions from inside the house, which he said sounded like gas tanks exploding.

The entire building was already swallowed in flames before more than 100 firefighters from 33 units extinguished the blaze by around 9:30 p.m. The infrastructure of the home’s second floor had completely caved in at that point, said the FDNY.

The fire was deemed accidental, according to a spokesperson for the fire department, and was caused by construction work being done with pipes and torches.

Huang could not be reached for comment.

— With additional reporting by Terence M. Cullen

DOB puts kibosh on 12-story hotel in Fresh Meadows


| Phertling@queenscourier.com

DSC_0388 (2)w

A plan to build a hotel in Fresh Meadows was turned down by the city after the developer failed to comply with the building code and zoning regulations, officials said.

The Department of Buildings (DOB) on July 31 rejected Mayflower Business Group’s proposal to put up a 12-story lodging house at 61-27 186th Street for a number of reasons, an agency spokesperson said.

The proposed hotel exceeded the maximum allowed floor-area ratio for the lot and also provided fewer than the required number of parking spaces, said the spokesperson.

Now the developer has 12 months to revise the plan and resubmit an application for the empty lot, where three homes once stood.

In the meantime, the bid has stirred up some controversy with nearby residents unsure of what the future will bring.

“There is no need for a hotel at that location,” said Jim Gallagher, president of the Fresh Meadows Homeowners Civic Association. “We’re not close to the airport. Where is the need for a 12-story hotel with 135 units?”

The same is being asked by most people living in the area, who have also voiced their complaints with Gallagher.

“The hotel would block out the sunlight,” said Christopher Chee, who has lived across the lot for 17 years. “There is no reason for this.”

Chee, 57, believes a hotel would add chaos to a street already congested by vehicles. He remembers at least three instances where his property was ruined due to drivers making U-turns on his block.

David Fung, 25, also sees a potential disaster in the making.

“I have a hard time backing out my car,” said Fung. “It’s a very, very narrow street.”

Gallagher hopes to negotiate soon with the developers, who were unable to be contacted for a response. His goal, he said, is to keep the area a residential community for the future.

“This is a place where people raise families,” Gallagher said. “And we’re very proud of it.”

 

Richmond Hill rezoning wreaks havoc on religious institution


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

A Hindu temple in Richmond Hill has been battling with the Department of Buildings (DOB), after the mandir was hit with several violations that both the building owner and priest say were incorrect and unfair.

The DOB began to issue violations in January for working without permits on electricity and plumbing, said Ali Mahmood, who owns the building on 101st Avenue. He went on to say that the DOB claimed the Certificate of Occupancy (C of O) for the structure was not listed as commercial.

Mahmood took the agency to court and argued that since the structure was erected before 1938, it did not require a C of O. The entire block, he said, was actually mixed-use and he had been paying commercial taxes on the building for years.

The next court hearing will be on Tuesday, August 21, and Mahmood said he will now have a lawyer with him.

Mahmood, who said he is Muslim, has not taken rent payments from the mandir, as they have not been able to raise money.

The building battle comes as some Richmond Hill residents and business owners protest the zoning laws that were approved late last month.

All projects, a DOB spokesperson said, are affected by new zoning laws, however.

“When it comes to rezoning,” the spokesperson said, “all buildings are impacted if a proposed conversion, enlargement or development is planned.”

Mahin Gosine, the mandir’s priest and a sociology professor, said the larger problem was the city’s attitude toward the Indian community. Right now, he said, the city was enforcing its power on the community to the point where residents feel it is discrimination.

“This is a form of behavior that’s meted out toward the whole Indian community,” Gosine said.

Gosine said the community was open to having a discussion with the city to find out what structures had been built wrong, or what needed to be done to correct things.

“We are willing to sit and talk,” he said, “but the city has to be forthcoming.”

Mahmood also said shutting down the mandir affected the area’s culture, as many residents spend their little time off at their houses of worship.

“The only few hours these people have is used to come to the church to meditate,” Mahmood said. “People [are] trying to preserve their culture.”

National Weather Service issues high wind advisory


| brennison@queenscourier.com

The National Weather Service (NWS) has issued a high wind watch and said damaging winds may blow through the city this weekend.

Strong winds are expected to begin tonight and last into Saturday evening.

Gusts may reach up to 60 mph, with sustained winds of 40 mph, according to the NWS.

The strongest winds will come after midnight.

The winds strength means there is potential for downed trees and power lines.

The Department of Buildings is warning property owners to take precautionary measures to secure safety.  The DOB said to:

  • Bring inside loose, lightweight objects such as lawn furniture, potted plants, garbage cans, garden tools and toys.
  • Anchor objects that would be unsafe outside, such as gas grills or propane tanks.
  • Close up and secure patio umbrellas.
  • Secure retractable awnings.
  • Remove aerial antennas and satellite television dishes.