March 9, 2016 By Michael Florio and Jackie Strawbridge
Dozens of Long Island City community members gathered on 44th Drive on Wednesday afternoon to protest developers’ destruction of a historic local building.
Unique exterior details have been illegally torn from the former Elks Lodge at 21-42 44th Drive, just days after an effort to landmark the property and stave off demolition was launched.
According to Department of Buildings documents, construction work on the property – including the removal of an elk head detail – was taking place without proper permits.
A stop work order was issued yesterday, which police had arrived to enforce on Tuesday afternoon.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who wrote a letter to the Landmark Preservation Commission last week requesting landmark consideration of this property, called the illegal work a “disgraceful act” at Wednesday’s rally.
“They tried to destroy what made it worthy of being landmarked,” Van Bramer said. “They tried to scar it and make it ugly.”
Van Bramer’s landmarking request followed a petition launched by the Court Square Civic Association to prevent demolition of the property.
“This is a slap in the face to the Long Island City culture,” Court Square Civic Association president Amadeo Plaza said. “These developers use Long Island City’s roots as a selling point, but they don’t protect them and they are destroying them.”
Van Bramer said he is introducing two pieces of legislation as a result of this incident.
One of these bills would increase fines on any building owner who does illegal demolition work on their property. The logistics and dollar amount are still being worked out, Van Bramer’s office said.
The other bill would create heavy fines for any landowner who destroys a significant element of their building without a permit for which a landmarking request has been submitted by the community.
After purchasing the property late last year, Adam Westreich of Alwest Equities told the LIC Post that his company was working with Planet Partners to develop both 21-42 44th Drive and the lot next door as luxury condos.
It is unclear where development plans stand now; the property was purchased once again in early February, according to City documents, although the buyer appears to be Planet Partners.
Neither company could immediately be reached for comment on this story.
“I am livid at the creeps who tried to destroy this building,” Van Bramer said.
“We will not stop fighting,” he continued, as protesters broke into chants of “we will win.”