2003-07-09 / Front Page

Kew Gardens Foundation

Is Mosquito Breeding Site
by Linda J. Wilson
Kew Gardens Foundation Is Mosquito Breeding Site

“It smells and there are mosquitoes breeding in this pool of stagnant water,” Anthony Boudakian said. “It’s obviously a breeding ground for West Nile Virus.”“It smells and there are mosquitoes breeding in this pool of stagnant water,” Anthony Boudakian said. “It’s obviously a breeding ground for West Nile Virus.”

by Linda J. Wilson

A lot on Kew Forest Lane in Forest Hills is the object of a protracted court battle and the site of a serious threat to public health, according to some area residents and community officials. "It’s a disgusting sight," Kathleen Hinton, district manager of Community Board 6, said.

The lot, at 77-16 Kew Forest Lane, once held a one-family house, but the structure was razed and the foundation poured for a multistory, multi-family residential building. Efforts by then City Councilmember Karen Koslowtiz and a group of neighborhood activists who formed the Kew Forest Neighborhood Association to fight the development, led to the discovery that the property was covered by a restrictive covenant, which barred the building of any multi-family dwelling on the site. However, the foundation for the building the property owners, Albert Mushibayez and Rita Lieberman, sought to put up on the site had already been poured. According to an area businessman, the foundation "has turned into a lake" after weeks of rain.

"It smells and there are mosquitoes breeding in this pool of stagnant water," Anthony Boudakian said. "It’s obviously a breeding ground for West Nile Virus."

According to Hinton and Boudakian, representatives from the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene visited the site, but could only take pictures. "It’s shocking that without permission from the owners the Department of Health can’t even go on the property," Hinton said.

The owners were enjoined from further construction almost four years ago, after the Kew Forest Neighborhood Association was formed. In August 2002 a Queens Supreme Court judge ruled against Mushibayev, Lieberman and the Inter County Abstract Corporation, the title company for the property, holding that the restrictive covenant took precedence over zoning laws which would have allowed for construction of multi-family housing. Later last year another court ordered Mushibayev and Liberman to restore a single-family home on the site. The owners appealeed the decision, saying they had not had enough time to restore the home that originally stood on the lot. The property has been vacant except for the foundation ever since. "Everything is stalled while the owners appeal the court decision," Hinton said.

While building on the property has been put on hold, efforts to make sure the area is downzoned so that the problem will not arise again proceed. In January Councilmember Melinda Katz, who was elected to Koslowitz’ 29th Council District seat after Koslowitz was appointed deputy borough president by Borough President Helen Marshall introduced legislation on the downzoning issue and has kept abreast of developments regarding the site presenting a threat to public health. "Any time there’s a dirty pool of water, there’s danger to everyone in the area," Katz said through a spokesperson. "We’ve contacted the Department of Health and we’ll follow up on this. We want to make sure this hazard is removed."

If Health Department inspectors gain access to the property, Mushibayev and Lieberman can be fined for allowing standing water, penalties for which range between $200 and $2,000. They can also be fined for harboring rodents. The property has becme a dumping ground and has becme infested with vermin as a result. Inspects visited the site twice during the month of June but were refused accesson both occasions.

Councilmember John Liu attended a barbeque at a house across the street from the vacant property on June 29, at which time the site’s dangers were pointed out to him. "The larger issue here is, the neighborhood is fighting [the development] because they see the erosion of their residential quality of life, and any residential quality of life is something worth fighting for," he said.

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