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Huang breaks zoning: DOB

A controversial Maspeth apartment house looks a lot different after the city Department of Buildings forced notorious developer Tommy Huang to make major changes.

The structure, at 57-39 Mazeau St., now appears to be three stories, where it used to be four, violating the zoning laws and drawing the ire of elected officials and civic groups.

The Juniper Park Civic Association called the building's modification a victory Monday.

"This is a big victory for Maspeth because it shows unscrupulous developers that the community is watching and they won't be able to get away with this type of action," said Juniper Park President Robert Holden.

A partial stop-work order exists on the site dating back to November 2006, when inspectors responded to complaints that the building did not conform to the local zoning.

Inspectors temporarily lifted the stop-work order earlier this year to allow Huang to tear down the illegal fourth story and a segment of the building that came too close to neighboring structures. Huang must prove that the house is in compliance with all DOB directives before being issued a permit to finish the structure.

"It's about time that DOB listened to the community and forced notorious developers like Tommy Huang to conform to the building and zoning codes," said City Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside). "It still is a shame that the community has to be the one to force the DOB to enforce its own regulations."

After complaints from the community, the DOB audited the building in 2006, finding inadequate space between it and neighboring properties.

The DOB again audited the site on July 6, 2007, once again finding objections at that time requiring correction.

Avella has introduced legislation in the City Council that would empower the DOB to refuse permits to developers who have repeatedly broken city building and zoning laws, citing Huang as an inspiration.

In 1999, Huang was convicted of a felony for a 1996 oil spill in the basement of the landmarked RKO Keith's Theater in Flushing, which he purchased in 1986.

Huang also bought the 200-year-old Klein Farm in Fresh Meadows in 2003 with plans to construct 18 two-family homes at the site. A real estate company Huang's family owns listed the property earlier this year for $6 million.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jwalsh@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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