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Queens Chronicle

Deserted billboard is falling apart

Civic group calls upon DOB and City Council to remove hazard

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Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:56 am, Thu Mar 14, 2013.

An article in the latest edition of Newtown Civic Association’s newsletter criticized the condition of an unused billboard in Elmhurst, calling upon the city to fix it.

“The sign company no longer uses the sign for advertising and has abandoned it,” the article read. “Yet this dangerous condition continues to the detriment of passersby.”

The billboard was reportedly erected illegally but has not been used for advertisements in a number of months, resulting in one-inch thick pieces of plywood falling from the structure onto the sidewalk.

The building it stands on, also abandoned, was once the El Tucan Banquet Hall.

The NCA claims they have spoken before the City Council and have called upon the City Department of Buildings Queens headquarters to rectify the situation but they say the complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

According to the DOB website, the owner of the building, Mohammad Malik, has already received a number of violations, the most recent being on Jan. 8 after a follow-up inspection.

On Dec. 28, 2012, Malik received an Environmental Control Board violation for failing “to maintain at roof level, billboard structure broken and missing boards throughout and in danger of falling.”

Even though the building is abandoned and has been for some time, responsibility for both the building and the billboard fall on the owner, who will have to appear in court on April 9.

As of printing, Malik was not available for comment.

Despite the severity of the building’s condition, surrounding businesses say the structure doesn’t cause much trouble.

An employee at Illusions, a car accessory shop across the street from the billboard, says the vacant building even has its perks.

“I really don’t mind it, to be honest,” said Leon, who would not provide his last name. “I can park my cars alongside of it so it’s actually kind of convenient. I mean, it would be nice if someone would renovate it, but it doesn’t affect business or anything.”

Meanwhile, the abandoned building has been left unguarded with an open side door, resulting in occasional trespassers.

Some posts on the Internet even speculate that the place is haunted.

“If I see someone trying to sneak in there, I call the cops and they get them out; it’s not a problem,” Leon said.

The DOB was unable to say what will happen to the building or to Malik, as they are only responsible for inspections.

The department can only close a building after an extreme event such as a fire or hurricane when severe damage is done and the structure is deemed “unsafe.”

The ECB will handle all future fines or other punishments after Malik’s court appearance.

As for the City Council, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) could not comment on the matter because the issue had never been brought to him before.

Dromm’s communication director also checked with his constituents service director and haven not heard anything from Dromm’s constituents either.

NCA President Thomas McKenzie was not available for comment.

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