2002-06-05 / Front Page

Norwood Residents Protest 36th Street Property Demolition

By Seth Wharton

Norwood Residents Protest
36th Street Property Demolition

Photo Seth Wharton Placard carrying protesters stand outside property in question on 36th St.Photo Seth Wharton Placard carrying protesters stand outside property in question on 36th St.

Residents of 36th Street between 30th and 31st Avenues banded together this week to protest the purchase, demolition and planned reconstruction of a house on their block.

The property at 30-31 36th St. was purchased earlier this year and demolished. Plans were devised to erect a four-story apartment building on the site, raising the ire of the residents who have enjoyed living along a row of 1920s homes with small front yards and tree-lined tranquility.

It took residents only 10 days to organize a neighborhood association, called the Norwood Residents Association, after a similar association that existed on the block decades ago.

That was twice the time it took the owners of the property in question to demolish the existing house, according to Community Board 1 District Manager George Delis, despite the fact that the owners hadn’t yet received the go-ahead from the Department of Buildings to begin work.

"This guy worked very fast," Delis said. "I couldn’t believe it. Within five days he had the building down."

Since work began on the site in March, long before permits were ever issued, the property and the construction have garnered seven complaints with the Department of Buildings starting on March 22 and going on until June 3.

A stop work order was issued as a result of several of the complaints, but the owners continued to work. Unfortunately for the residents of the block, zoning is against them. The street is zoned R-6, which allows the owner to build the four-story building if he likes. The stop work orders have been issued for improper work conditions and improper permits, not as a zoning issue.

The owner, according to Department of Buildings records, is Dimitri Zafiriadis, who could not be identified among the numerous people gathered to watch the protest on Monday. A group of three men and one woman gathered near the protest were identified as the owners by the residents on the block, but, refused to identify themselves as the owners or answer questions.

Delis attempted to address the owner as well, offering Zafiriadis his card, insisting he would have to work with him on this, but Zafiriadis refused the card, Delis said.

Among the seven complaints on file with the DOB, one identifies the owner of the property as Kandic Dzeidet.

"We notified every single public official’s office all the way to Pataki," said Isidore Rigoutsos, who lives across the street at 30-30 36th St.

The protesters carried picket signs and hung banners from balconies nearly the length of the block, all of which stated that four story buildings weren’t welcome on that block.

Sydelle Diner has lived at 30-20 36th St. her entire life. Her parents bought the house in 1922, just a few years after it was built.

"I’m outraged," she said. "I can’t believe that somebody would come in and destroy the ambiance of the block."

This isn’t the first time that the block’s ambiance has been unsettled, though. A dentist’s office at 30-25 built a front addition that extended the building well beyond the lengths of any other house, completely altering the tone of the structure.

So disquieted by that project were residents that the adjacent property owners wouldn’t permit workers access to their properties, essential to complete the project, so the addition still remains unfinished, a cinder block structure as uncharacteristic of the surrounding houses as a four-story apartment building would be.

According to Diner, residents were assured by the owner of 30-31 that he wasn’t going to build out the structure like 30-25 had been built. That’s precisely the plan as it stands now, though.

The only recourse the residents have, according to Delis, is to seek a change in zoning on that particular property or block, "or they can go to historic preservation," he said.

For the time being, however, the residents can only hope the stop work orders hold and that their banners, which state "Zoning is destroying our neighborhood," make the point heard with the right people.

Bob Singleton, president of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, addressing the society’s Monday night gathering, said, "It’s a wonderful opportunity for the people to show how much we love our community." He urged people to walk that block of 36th Street and show their support for the protestors.

Singleton added that development similar to the 36th Street issue was threatening to destroy neighborhoods across Queens in a bit-by-bit fashion—piecemeal, as he put it.

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