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Queens Chronicle

Collapsed building still wreaking havoc

Melting snow on Woodhaven structure now leaking into ambulance corps HQ

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Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014 10:30 am | Updated: 12:34 pm, Thu Mar 6, 2014.

Woodhaven residents and civic leaders have had enough of the problems caused by a vacant building that collapsed on Jamaica Avenue last April.

It’s been more than 10 months since the structure at 78-19 Jamaica Ave. partially imploded after heavy rains, destroying a minivan and damaging the recently-renovated Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps next door.

Though the building was condemned, the owner has paid some of the thousands of dollars in fines the city has given him over the property, and an arrest warrant has even been issued for him for unpaid fines. However, the ruins of the building remain and continue to cause problems.

Last Saturday, Kathy Sexton Dalbey, president of the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said she noticed an issue when she came into the organization’s headquarters.

“I heard wood creaking,” she said. “This was the first time in almost 30 years that I was panicking.”

The FDNY responded to the location and discovered there was a leak caused by melting snow that had accumulated on the former second floor of the collapsed building. Sexton Dalbey said she was told a wall between the ambulance corps office and the collapsed building may have shifted, putting into question the structural integrity of the ambulance corps building as well as the one that has collapsed.

The situation has become a last straw for Woodhaven civic leaders, who want the city to either tear down the building or repair it — now.

“We are very afraid of the integrity of that building,” said Maria Thomson, executive director of the Woodhaven Business Improvement District and Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation. “Are they waiting for it to get more deadly? When you look at the car, and what the collapse did to that car, God was with us.”

(See Maria Thomson’s “Woodhaven Developments” column on page 17 for more on the Woodhaven BID and GWDC reaction on the collapsed building.)

“Again, we have problems with the collapsed building, with tons of water pouring off it from the snow, and a great deal more of additional damage is being done to the ambulance corps because of this structure,” said Jim Coccovillo, chairman of Community Board 9 and a Woodhaven resident. “Something has to be done now with this building. The Buildings Department must step up and do what it has to do — to either take it down or repair it.”

The issue is the latest setback for the department, which has had financial problems for years. The organization had just moved back into its new headquarters, which also housed the Woodhaven Senior Center until the collapse. Without the senior center there, the WRHVAC is not receiving that revenue and is in dire financial straits.

The corps is suing the owner of the collapsed building for $13 million.

“It is shameful that this problem has stretched on for as long as it has,” said Martin Colberg, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association. “It’s time for the city to resolve this once and for all. Not only does the current situation put us all at risk — every pedestrian who passes by, every car that drives by — but it might also kill the ambulance corps, which would be a terribly unfair outcome. The city must take action now.”

The WRBA has scheduled a rally this Sunday at 1 p.m. outside the ambulance corps building to demand the city take action.

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