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Queens Chronicle

A landmark compromise

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Posted: Thursday, March 10, 2016 10:30 am

Landmarking is great. It helps preserve our heritage, keeps neighborhoods more cohesive and increases property values.

But it does come at a price, and not everyone who has a house worthy of landmarking wants to pay that price. It involves, by definition, major restrictions on what someone can do with the building — that’s the whole point — and tremendous bureaucratic hoops he or she has to jump through in order to do something as routine as replacing windows and sashes.

The owner of the Ahles House is one person who does not want to pay that price. His home is a nice piece of architecture we’d be glad to see preserved. But he’s been fighting its proposed landmarking for years and has had enough. Enough of the persistent pressure from state Sen. Tony Avella, who’s been leading the charge to preserve the structure. Enough of the media trying to get him to discuss the issue. Enough of photographers — none from the Queens Chronicle — being so bold as to put their cameras right up to his windows to get interior shots, in a serious invasion of his privacy. And so forth.

There also are many other people, in neighborhoods such as Broadway Flushing, who do not want to see their entire community landmarked, just as there are many there who do.

We propose a compromise. When it comes to individual homes — not churches, not clock towers, not the Pepsi sign in Long Island City — let’s rewrite the law to say that the existing property owner can opt out of all the restrictions. They would take effect only upon sale of the house. That would allow someone like the owner of the Ahles House to not worry about getting new windows if he wants, while still preserving most landmarked homes. Yes, some would be altered, but such a law would still bar new owners from swooping in and ruining a home to add space for, say, illegal apartments.

Such a plan seems a good balance between preservation and property rights, which are vital. Is there a lawmaker who’ll propose it?

Welcome to the discussion.