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Queens Chronicle

Astoria medical site debacle unresolved

Insurance agencies visit affected homes; BSA stalls variance vote

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Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:28 am, Thu Mar 28, 2013.

The Board of Standards and Appeals decided for the second time on Tuesday to not vote on a zoning variance for a medical facility in Astoria.

The eight-story edifice at 23-25 31 St. was partially erected when five homeowners who abut the construction started seeing cracks in their foundations, resident Robert Draghi said. They first asked the developer, Pali Realty, to assess the damage. No one showed.

Then in July the Draghis demanded the Department of Buildings conduct an audit. When the department came out, it saw the facility and 135-car parking garage was being built 20 feet from its property line instead of the legal 30. The DOB then issued a stop-work order that is still in place. The board asked for more information from Pali Realty. The vote will come before the board again on April 23.

If the BSA votes in favor of the zoning variance to allow the 10-foot reduction in the setback, Pali Realty will be able to restart construction.

Community Board 1 and the Queens Borough President’s Office recommended the variance with four stipulations: the gray brick wall separating the structure from the homes be finished with a desirable stucco finish; a barrier be installed in front of the air-conditioning unit to modify noise; the developers mitigate the problems with the adjacent homes using a third party; and the front of the building be lit for security reasons.

“We’re begging them to leave the stipulations,” Draghi said of the BSA. “We had a house, we want a house.”

The stipulations would require the developer to resolve the issue with the five owners.

On March 5 someone with Seabreeze General Construction’s insurance company, Chartis Inc., visited all five houses. The Draghis and Imbajas, two families with homes that based on reports from a private engineer need to be rebuilt because of foundation cracks created by the shifting caused by the massive medical building, submitted proposals this week for what they want Chartis and Pali Realty’s insurance, Ace Insurance, to cover.

The Draghis’ and Imbajas’ houses are built with cinder blocks that were not flexible to shifting ground, Draghi said. The Draghis have monitors on most visible cracks in their walls, which show their home is still moving.

The other three homes have wood frames and are most likely fixable.

Nevertheless, Draghi said all the homes need their backyards dug up and repacked. The drainage also needs to be reset. At the Draghi home they have severe water damage and mold.

They will ask for reimbursements for architects, engineers, rebuilding, demolition and relocation during the construction and storage for property that will not fit at the temporary locations.

“We’re moving full speed ahead,” Draghi said. “We don’t want to stall this process at all.”

Seabreeze General Construction did not return a call for comment.

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