2004-04-23 / Community

Lawn Signs Stir Up Belle Harbor Homeowners

By Brian Magoolaghan

Lawn Signs Stir Up Belle Harbor Homeowners

By Brian Magoolaghan

Two signs posted on the lawn of a Belle Harbor home soliciting investors for a condominium or eldercare facility – to be built on the corner property – may have caused enough community backlash to squash the plan.

"That was scrubbed," said Sidney Levine of the plan which sought 40 investors at $10,000 apiece for the property at 402 Beach 134 Street. "It’s going to stay as a single family residence for the owner," added Levine, head of the litigation unit at the Manhattan-based Furman Law Firm, which represents the elderly property owner, Estelle Simon.

Levine said his office received numerous calls from residents, accusing Furman Realty Group of trying to "blockbust" the neighborhood.

Levine said those accusations were erroneous that there was never any intent to get neighbors to sell their property.

The signs, however, sparked an immediate reaction from neighbors opposed to another multi-unit dwelling in the predominantly one and two-family home neighborhood.

Many local residents indicated to officials that they were worried that both their property values and their quality of life would be decreased by the inclusion of either a multi-family unit or a senior residence in their midst.

"We got a ton of correspondence," said Jonathan Gaska, District Manager for Community Board 14.

In response, CB14 filed several complaints with the city’s Department of Buildings, Gaska said.

A review of the DOB records shows that three separate complaints, alleging illegal construction without a permit, illegal conversion throughout and two illegal signs, were issued late last month.

The DOB’s special inspection team was unable to gain access on their first visit, according to an agency spokesperson.

Levine blamed the violations on a bad tenant who "bamboozled" Simon, an elderly woman, living temporarily in a local nursing home. Calls by The Wave to the address went unanswered.

In addition to the complaints, CB14, State Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer and City Councilman Joe Addabbo each sent letters to the DOB, Gaska said.

In order for the plan to have moved forward, the owners needed a variance to the current R2 zoning.

Levine told The Wave that Furman Realty decided they had no hope of obtaining the variance after the city denied their initial request on April 7 of this year.

Although Levine said that his company had filed for a variance, the DOB, the Department of City Planning and the Board of Standards and Appeal each said they had no record of an application for a variance for the address.

Gaska, who said that Community Board would have had veto power over the proposal, as it does over all Rockaway variance requests, speculated that the plan might have "never have gotten past the preliminary planning phases."

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