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Queens Chronicle

Harwyn residents protest developer

They say project next door will deprive them of ‘breathing space’

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Posted: Thursday, August 22, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:11 am, Thu Aug 29, 2013.

Claiming that a planned eight-story building adjacent to their apartments would pose environmental hazards by completely blocking their windows, residents of the Harwyn, located at 143-40 41 Ave. in Flushing, held a rally on Tuesday.

The afternoon gathering began in front of their residence and took them to the lobby of a building down the block, where they say Fortuna Design & Construction, Inc., the project’s architects, maintain an office.

“We are here and we demand you come out,” shouted Martha Flores-Vazquez, a resident of the Harwyn, who organized the rally. With no response, she continued, “We will be back. We will demand that you listen to us.”

According to Flores-Vazquez, the developer, Terence Chung, owner of Stern 88 Holdings LLC, is the man behind the development. “In order to pursue to the max profit, the developer decided to build their wall against our building with zero space in between their wall and our windows,” she said.

One tenant, George Sanchez, who has lived in the building for 35 years, said that “their shoddy construction has cracked our building.” He pointed to a half dozen cracks in the brick wall directly facing the site of the construction.

A single-family home stood in the now-empty lot next door for nearly 100 years prior to being demolished, Flores-Vazquez said. She claimed the developer pressured the owner: “He was asked to sell his house every day. He couldn’t take it anymore.”

The developer did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Flores-Vazquez alleged that her building’s management, Four Seasons Property Management, received no notification of the plans and produced photocopies of a letter she claimed was sent by Xin Rong Feng, president of Fortuna. It was addressed to “Current Resident and/or Owner” at 143-26 41 Ave., which, she said, is Fortuna’s own address.

The letter states, in part, “There will be a new building construction at above referenced premise (143-28 41 Ave.) on or about five to ten days from the construction approval date, issued by the NYC Department of Buildings.” The certified letter was dated June 14.

Flores-Vazquez said the letter was given to her by Chung as evidence that he has complied with the law. “This is not appropriate evidence,” she said.

The rally organizer claims the residents also have been pressured by both Chung and his lawyers.

As a small crowd of the Harwyn’s residents, which includes shareholders and renters, gathered outside the building, Flores-Vazquez said, “A community united will never be defeated. Our peaceful serenity will not be disturbed.”

Addressing Chung, who was not present, she said, “I want you to get a clear message. I am appalled that you decided to come into my neighborhood and rearrange the furniture. We’re not going to take this from you.”

The project is not as of right and Flores-Vazquez said residents did not receive the required 10-day notice to voice their opposition..

Many of the residents carried signs in English, Spanish and Chinese proclaiming, “Give me air to breathe” and “Development Plan Hurts Our Environment.”

Norma Nino, president of the building’s board, said that the developer plans to brick up their windows. “We weren’t advised. It’s not fair. It’s not right that our next-door neighbor is doing this to us.”

Mimi Xu, a member of the board, said all the residents have been living in the Harwyn for more than 30 years. “We were never advised to this plan,” Xu said. She was particularly distressed that “there’s no other ventilation other than natural air through the windows.”

Marie Blanchard, a real estate sales associate who has rented an apartment in the building for 40 years, said they had met last week with Chung and he indicated his building plan has been approved. “We the tenants or shareholders never received notice concerning the construction,” Blanchard said.

She claimed that Chung told the residents in attendance, “You’re going to lose. You’re wasting your time.”

Offering pro bono assistance is attorney and mayoral candidate Neil Grimaldi, who said, “I will go to court next week to try to stop this with an order to show cause to see if everything was done properly. Let the judge decide the issue.”

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