Pat Martin’s troubles began 12 years ago and they’ve only gotten worse.
The Bayside homeowner has the bad luck of living next door to a Tommy Huang building project gone wrong, and despite pleas to the city for help, there’s little she can do about it.
Huang is a Flushing developer who with his wife and son was banned last year by the state from real estate construction or sales for five years over various offenses in Queens. They pleaded guilty to felony securities fraud.
In 2012, Huang purchased a single-family ranch house at 39-39 223 St., next door to Martin. He tore it down and replaced it with one house on 223rd Street and three on the side of the property, along with a new access road that was given the name Mia Drive.
According to several neighbors in the pricey neighborhood and area elected officials, they have never seen a building project done in such a shoddy manner. The street overlooks Little Neck Bay.
Workmen excavated too close to Martin’s property, causing a retaining wall to collapse. Her property lost 3 feet of land, fencing, lighting and the irrigation system. A court case was recently settled, which Martin could not discuss, but it was drawn out for years and legal fees mounted.
There has been a stop-work order on the property since 2007 and Huang cannot get certificates of occupancy for the houses.
The first-floor windows are boarded up but that hasn’t stopped vandals from ransacking one of the houses and holding parties in others, Martin said. She believes people are living in the houses from time to time and there is power because she sees lights on at night.
Last Friday, however, was the last straw for the beleaguered Baysider. Police were called to the site by a neighbor who saw activity on the property. Martin said several partygoers ran onto her property to escape. She screamed and they took off.
“We are worried for our safety,” she said. “Some of the neighbors are trying to sell their houses and are afraid to speak out, fearing retribution from the people who use the houses.”
Officer John Erdman of the 111th Precinct confirmed that there was an incident Friday. “Kids have been hanging out there,” Erdman said. “We found a lot of beer cans.”
He said all doors and garages are locked and windows boarded. “We are keeping an eye on it,” Erdman added.
Martin, however, said the fourth house was open on Sunday and the third house seriously vandalized six months ago.
“I’ve seen people with sleeping bags,” she said. “I’m fed up.”
Bags of garbage have been split open by raccoons and rats and no one takes care of the property, she claims.
Attempts to reach any of the Huangs were not successful.
Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Community Board 11, said the fourth house on Mia Drive should be torn down because it’s unsafe and there’s nowhere for a fire truck or police cruiser to turn around. She believes Huang is trying to sell the property, “but who would buy it?” she asked.
Martin has contacted the departments of Health, Sanitation and Buildings without success and is hoping CB 11 can set up a task force meeting on the site. She has also contacted Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) for assistance.
“This is a serious quality-of-life issue,” Martin said. “I want Buildings to do something. They need to be held accountable for the unresolved issues. The houses are just rotting away. They should be leveled.”
She noted that there are no addresses on the houses, which is illegal, and the access road is blocked by wood and cement blocks so that a police car cannot enter.
Kelly Magee, spokeswoman for the DOB, said the last complaint her agency received for the buildings was on Dec. 10, 2013. “The department inspected and found that front and back doors were closed; and windows were either sealed or closed. No violation was warranted. No further complaints have been received for the buildings being vacant,” Magee said.
However, each of the houses has between 10 and 15 open violations, according to the DOB website.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) has called the Huangs “a scourge on the Queens community” for as long as he’s been in office, while former CB 11 Chairman Jerry Iannece has said the buildings “are a blemish on our community.”
In announcing the Huangs’ real estate ban last year, state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman issued the following statement: “Mr. Huang’s misconduct stretches back decades and includes unsafe construction sites, environmental crimes, building code violations and fraudulent securities transactions — all in Queens. This egregious and unscrupulous greed on the part of the Huangs and their blatant disregard for the law and the safety of others must stop.”
Martin agrees and hopes some action can be taken next door. “Somebody is making themselves comfortable there and I want it stopped.”