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Queens Chronicle

Steinway Mansion friends group wants a museum

The house has been on the market since 2010; proposal for museum

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Posted: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:56 am, Thu Mar 14, 2013.

Some Astoria residents have stepped up their several-years-long efforts to buy the landmarked property once owned by the neighborhood’s pioneering piano family by forming a friends group last week.

The Friends of Steinway Mansion wish to garner state support for public money as well as raise private funds with which to purchase the home. The mansion would then be turned into a museum, according to Bob Singleton, executive director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society.

“Awareness is the first thing,” said Singleton. “The campaign will go from one end of the borough to the other actively looking to raise money.”

Assemblywomen Aravella Simotas (D-Astoria) and Margaret Markey (D-Maspeth) met with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation last summer in an effort to pique state interest.

“The plan won’t be successful if there isn’t public funding,” Simotas said.

Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) has been pushing for the preservation of the mansion for years. He said the city will not contribute to the project until a private organization has committed to maintaining the museum after the purchase.

“The reason they won’t contribute is not the initial capital investment, but they require a private entity that will commit to maintaining the premises,” Vallone said. “I don’t agree. I think it’s the city’s job to preserve historic spots, but they claim they don’t have money to do it anymore.”

A museum in Astoria would be an economic driving force not only for the neighborhood, but for the state as well, Simotas added. Another museum would draw more people to New York who could shop at local businesses as well as employ workers, she said. The plan is not far enough along, but eventually the group sees the area becoming an official Business Improvement District, Simotas said.

As for the neighborhood, the group believes a museum could reinvigorate the swatch of Astoria and bring additional businesses to the largely industrial area.

“It would spur the local economy,” Simotas said. “The grounds are absolutely stunning. The location needs to be preserved.”

The mansion was built in the 1850s and then bought by German immigrant William Steinway, the first president of Steinway & Sons, in the 1870s. After Steinway’s death, the house was eventually sold to the Halberian family, who has owned it since the early 20th century.

The 27-room house, located at 18-33 41 St., has been listed several times since 2010, when its former owner, the late Michael Halberian, put it on the market. His daughter, Michele Kazarian, is now the executor of the property.

“The plan sounds wonderful,” Kazarian said. “I hope to work with them.”

Her father’s home was last priced at $3.495 million with Sotheby’s International Realty. The house is now listed without a price with Greiner Maltz Real Estate, described as an ideal corporate headquarters, community facility or warehouse.

Whatever the place becomes, because it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was designated as a New York City Landmark in 1967, the mansion will probably not be torn down.

The Friends of the Steinway Mansion, which can be found on Facebook, hope that “whatever” will be a public museum.

Welcome to the discussion.