A dilapidated Forest Hills building, abandoned for over half a decade, has been declared “unsafe” by the Department of Buildings.
Citing numerous complaints and safety violations to the exterior of 73-25 Woodhaven Boulevard, the DOB has issued the property a UB (unsafe building) number.
Ilyse Fink, spokesperson for the DOB, said this does not mean the building is nearing a collapse, but rather that it fits three criteria: vacant, open and unguarded.
Issuing a UB notice is the beginning of a long legal process between the property owner and the city.
“If the building’s owner does not step to the plate and make the necessary changes, then the city could go to court,” Fink explained. “The process takes several months and ultimately, we could seal the building.”
A city architect will also be brought in to survey the building and make a determination of what physical changes are needed.
However at any time, the building’s owner can make the alterations himself. “Going to court is the last remedy,” she said.
The property, adjacent to the Sports Authority, has long been a hot spot for graffiti and illegal dumping.
Last September, the Chronicle exposed the worsening conditions of the abandoned building. Much of the outside of the 40,000-square-foot property is covered with graffiti.
The Chronicle also found several broken windows, many with shards of glass protruding and facing the busy pedestrian sidewalk. Extending from one broken window was black electrical wire. These conditions remain unchanged today.
According to records listed on the Web site of the Department of Finance, the building is currently owned by Woodell Acquisitions, based in Manhattan.
Records indicate that the company owes over $130,000 in real estate taxes to the city on the property.
The building has also received 59 different violations, according to the DOB’s Web site. The property has also been the subject of several public complaints, including broken windows, performing work without a permit and possible asbestos.
In addition, the site’s owner was recently issued a number of summonses by the 112th Precinct for numerous safety violations.
Woodell Acquisitions is also listed as the owner of 90-30 Metropolitan Avenue—known locally as the Heidelberg building. Also abandoned, Woodell was repeatedly fined for dumping and for illegally parked vehicles.
Despite the deteriorating conditions, the Woodhaven Boulevard property was given only a C-priority, which does not indicate an immediate risk or hazard posed by the site.
Local civic leaders in Forest Hills were excited to hear that the city is finally intervening.
“It’s a disgrace,” said Barbara Stuchinski, president of the Forest Hills Community and Civic Association. “They need to remove the entire structure.”
Stuchinski has attempted to contact Woodell in recent years regarding the building’s conditions, but has not received a reply.
And, although the Department of Finance lists the company as based out of 805 Third Avenue in Manhattan, there is no listed phone number for the company.
Stuchinski said what is needed for the site is a reliable, financially-stable company which would make the necessary external repairs and care for the building’s overall conditions.
However, without a comprehensive environmental study on the property, she doubts the site’s owner will find many potential developers. “The conditions are so bad. I don’t know who would even want the building.”
The property has been abandoned since the mid-1990s. It was formerly used as a printing plant by the Heidelberg Company.
Environmental studies in the area in recent years have found highly contaminated ground water below the building, which many believe could be related to the now-defunct company.
Several years ago, Stuchinski said, fast-food chain Nathans had eyed the site for potential construction. The plan eventually fell through.
Nonetheless, Kathleen Reilly, district manager of Community Board 6, still remains hopeful that the property owners will turn the building around. “I would really like to see it occupied and converted into commercial property. But, it’s not up to me.”