March 8, 2016 By Michael Florio and Jackie Strawbridge
Unique exterior details were illegally torn from the former Elks Lodge on 44th Drive this morning just days after the local community launched an effort to landmark the property and stave off development.
Construction workers took jackhammers to the building, located at 21-42 44th Drive. An elk head, one of the building’s unique exterior details, has been hacked off.
According to DOB documents, the work was taking place without proper permits. By Tuesday afternoon, police had arrived to enforce a stop work order from the Department of Buildings, an officer told the LIC Post.
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who wrote a letter to the Landmark Preservation Commission requesting landmark consideration of this property, called the illegal alteration “a disgraceful act of civic vandalism.”
He reached out to the DOB and Mayor’s office to have inspectors visit the location and issue a stop work order.
A construction supervisor told the LIC Post on Tuesday morning that the work being done was to test for asbestos, and not part of a demolition.
Van Bramer and other community members were skeptical of that claim.
The Councilman charged that developers started work in response to his landmark request letter as well as a community petition launched last week to prevent demolition of the building.
“I think the letter terrified them,” Van Bramer said.
“They are trying to destroy the façade of the building, which is the most architecturally significant part,” he continued. “The historical presence is extremely important in the landmarking process.”
Richard Mazda, director of the nearby Secret Theatre who has been documenting work at the Elks Lodge on social media, agreed.
“They are attacking the red brick sculptures of Elks on the front of the building,” he said. “They are destroying what makes it historically significant before it can be landmarked.”
Orestes Gonzales of the Court Square Civic Association, which launched the Elks Lodge petition, said, “since they [developers] got word of the petition they have been working all weekend to destroy it before we could save it.”
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 names listed on the buyer’s forms appear to have ties to Planet Partners.
Neither company could be reached for comment as of press time.
Van Bramer said that the developers should be punished for any illegal actions.
“If they have violated laws, we want them to be subjected to the most severe penalties that exist,” he said. “In addition, they should have to restore any damage done to the building to preserve its historical value.”
However, he added that once something is destroyed it is hard to restore it.
“It may not be the same, but it is better than having the building demolished,” he said.
DOB is another failed city agency .Someone has to die before DOB acts. Code violations are still violations. Clearly the greedy developer had every intention of defacing the art work on the building first. How about worker and pedestrian safety.No nets for the workers dropping chips or anything.
This is exactly why they get away with it: because “illegal” in terms of the Dept. of Buildings has nothing behind it. There are violations in the building where I live saying “Dangerous Places and Things” on them which have not been fixed in nearly 20 years and unless the building blows up not a single thing is done about it.
This is clearly a move by greedy developers to ruin the art work on the building so it can’t be Landmarked. These developers should be made to restore the building to the way it was , fined and thrown in jail for a few months.
(though the 5 Pointz bldg should have been that symbol… and nothing, seemingly, has changed. Surprise Surprise.)
Yes!!!!!! Tourists used to arrive from all over looking for 5Pointz. Now what do they get in this part of LIC? MOMA PS1 and condos? Joke.
Honestly, even before now, I wasn’t sure if anything we do can save that building. There are other buildings I wish could have been saved too. But I did want it to be saved and I do think there should be lines drawn as development has certainly gotten out of control. Infrastructure cannot support all this insanity, and I don’t like the look of all this new glassy development. It harshes my old school mellow, man.
That general comment said, at this point, after what they did yesterday, illegal or not, I don’t care. That was a cynical, lowdown d!ck move that does nothing but to confirm stereotypes of the evil, money grubbing developer that doesn’t give a rat’s maximus about a community. So, if I can do anything to this be the biggest drag of a job for them, (or even better, save the building) I will. If this project becomes the symbol of over reaching development in LIC, you’ll get no complaints from the likes of me.
I’ll be there.
There were no permits. The workers had no protection against the ‘asbestos’ they were testing for. The scaffold was unsecured. There was no netting preventing a hazard in terms of flying debris.
Finally why would they have stopped work if everything was in order. The rinky dink scaffold was taken down immediately and an official stop work order is on the door.
Clearly something is wrong a discussion of illegality is moot.
Frank, it was illegal because they did not have any permits to do the work.
Actually I should have said destruction
From the article:
“If they have violated laws, we want them to be subjected to the most severe penalties that exist,” he said.”
It is unclear if the developer acted illegally, since the building was not land marked yet. Unethically, yes, but that is not illegal. I bet they get a fine for work done without permits at the most – itself doubtful if only cosmetic changes were made.
Yes it’s illegal Frank! NO PERMITS = ILLEGAL! HELLO!
From the article:
“If they have violated laws, we want them to be subjected to the most severe penalties that exist,” he [JVB] said.”
I will take JVB’s assessment of legality vs code violation vs work for which a permit is not required over that of an Internet blowhard. Reading comprehension must have been an underrated skill for you.
Your a DICK!
Your a DICK!?
Mel, the maturity of your posts is underwhelming. Do you have an actual contribution to make to the conversation or do you just blurt out insults when you have no response?
There is nothing wrong with my reading comprehension I just don’t have a tolerance for idiots!
Yes it is illegal to start work without a permit! I know someone who works for the DOB!
I have a very good reading comprehension thank you, I just don’t have tolerance for IDIOTS!
“Illegal” typically refers to the violation of criminal law. Failing to obtain a building permit is not a violation of a law but a code violation. Very different things in terms of seriousness and punishment.
But, for Mel, let me get down to your level. I am rubber, you are glue, etc, etc. Are you even old enough to vote? You post like a petulant child.
The real estate greed is strong in this town. What a shame we can’t have things that aren’t all soulless glass towers.
This is the most cowardly course of action I have ever seen a developer take. This is almost as bad as the Whitewash.