Councilman Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) said Dr. John Ko promised him last February that long-delayed work at 1 Claremont Terrace in Elmhurst would be done in one year.
Thirteen months have passed, and the lawmaker says the unfinished, graffiti-covered apartment building abutting the Long Island Rail Road tracks is still in the same unsightly condition.
“It’s become a zombie apartment building. It’s just horrible,” Dromm told the Chronicle on Monday. “Our patience has come to an end.”
The property the building sits on is one of the more historic ones in Elmhurst, as Samuel Lord — the co-founder of Lord & Taylor, the oldest department store in America — purchased the site in 1840, eventually building homes for his four daughters there.
But 12 years ago, the final, decaying Lord home was demolished and construction began on the eight-story building.
But once the shell of it was completed, work seemingly came to a halt.
And in the years since, Dromm said, the site has become an on-again, off-again homeless encampment — “they had tents and everything” — and a magnet for graffiti vandals.
“We have tried to work with the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to deal with the homeless folks that are there and the garbage that piles up,” he said. “It’s a huge problem.”
Until recently, the building had no windows. But there are still a handful of rooms that don’t have them. When a Chronicle reporter visited the site on Tuesday, a large flock of birds was picking through garbage left in the alley next to the building.
Newtown Civic Association President Tom McKenzie called 1 Claremont Terrace on Tuesday one of the ugliest buildings in Elmhurst.
“It’s unsafe. Why isn’t the Department of Buildings boarding it up as an unguarded, unsafe, open-to-the-elements building?” he asked. “It’s an eyesore. It’s laid there for years uncompleted.”
According to DOB records, a permit was filed late last year to install electrical wiring in the building. The document said that project is due to be completed this month.
Dromm and McKenzie said the owner is Dr. John Ko, a plastic surgeon with an office not far away on Grand Avenue.
Attempts to reach Ko were unsuccessful as of press time on Wednesday, but a Dromm aide provided the Chronicle with a handful of emails the lawmaker’s office and Ko exchanged over the last two years.
In a message dated July 19, 2016, Ko said he was ordering his contractor to clean up the job site and remove the graffiti.
On Feb. 9, 2017, Ko wrote that he was trying his best to address the homelessness and vandalism issues, but said a combination of poor city maintenance of area streets and illegal dumping on the block made the site a magnet of unsightly activity.
And on Feb. 15, the owner said he anticipated the building would be completed in “approximately 12 months.”
Now that a year has come and gone, Dromm said the community is going to start pressing Ko to take immediate action.
“Everyone wants to know what’s going on and why nothing is being done,” he said. “It’s a bunch of broken promises from a bad neighbor.”