Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) is hopeful about the future of the Steinway Mansion, located on 41st Street in Astoria and built in 1858. A recent meeting with community leaders showed resounding support for turning the building, which is for sale, into a community facility, Vallone said Tuesday.
Vallone and Parks Department Commissioner Adrian Benepe were to have toured the mansion on Wednesday, though Vallone said it is unlikely the Parks Department would be able to purchase the house. Still, he said showing the building to the commissioner was important. “I think, as you know, once you get someone to the mansion they fall in love with it,” Vallone said.
At last Friday’s meeting, around 25 people including representatives from the Queens Historical Society, Greater Astoria Historical Society, Astoria Performing Arts Center and Historic House Trust, put their heads together to devise a plan for incorporating the mansion into the community.
“We came away very optimistic that we would come up with a way to get this done,” Vallone said.
The first step will be to form a committee and nonprofit organization to commission a feasibility study to determine what uses might be appropriate for the building and how much capital is needed.
“If there’s no city money the trick becomes raising private money and coming up with uses that would bring in revenue,” Vallone said.
Ideally, the councilman would like to see the space used as a performing arts center, with room for the historical society and other community groups. Other ideas for the grounds include creating a botanical garden and renting out space for private events.
For many years building owner and history buff Michael Halberian has wanted to turn the 25-room Italianate stone villa into a community facility. He has an extensive library which he hopes will remain in the building.
“One of the most important things about this is that the owner is supportive. He is actively working with us to make this a community resource,” Vallone said. “Anytime I want to bring someone over to look at it, he has been as helpful as he could possibly be.”