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Flushing prepares for landmark battle

If residents of Broadway−Flushing are indeed preparing the war on the Landmarks Preservation Commission they have promised, then Sunday morning they began marshalling their troops.

“Kissena Park Civic Association,” one person shouted after City Councilman Tony Avella (D−Bayside) asked for a roll call of attending civic associations at Bowne Park.

“North Flushing Civic Association,” bellowed another.

“Auburndale Improvement Association,” beamed yet another.

Avella and other elected officials joined more than 200 Queens residents representing nearly a dozen organizations at the North Flushing park Sunday afternoon to protest the Landmarks commission’s recent decision to deny a hearing to make Broadway−Flushing a city historic district.

“Everybody who has ever been in this neighborhood has fallen in love with it except the Landmarks commission,” said Mel Siegel of the Broadway−Flushing Homeowners Association. “But we will fight this until we win.”

Broadway−Flushing, already listed as a historic district in the state and national registries, is a collection of about 1,300 homes built shortly after 1900. It is bounded by Bayside and 29th avenues to the north, Northern Boulevard and Crocheron Avenue to the south, 170th Street to the east and 155th Street to the west. Residents of the area have been fighting to get city historic district status — which offers protections over what types of construction can be built in the area — for many years to little avail.

The struggle culminated last month when LPC Chairman Robert Tierney wrote a letter to Avella and residents of Broadway−Flushing indicating the commission would not calendar the century−old neighborhood for landmarking because of numerous alterations to homes in the community and because its surveyors deemed the area as “not architecturally significant.”

“The city of New York is a subdivision of the state of New York, you all know that. The state of New York is a subdivision of the great United States of America,” said state Sen. Frank Padavan (R−Bellerose). “If it’s good enough for the state and it’s good enough for the nation, then it’s good enough for New York City.”

Avella, who has in the past feuded with Padavan, stood by his side Sunday and agreed.

“Hopefully, this rally will demonstrate the overwhelming support that this designation has and encourage the LPC to change its mind,” he said. “We will continue this fight until this designation is approved. Anything less is unacceptable.”

Paul Graziano, an urban planner and president of the Historic Districts Council, said the LPC’s decision is part of a pattern of neglect by the commission. Queens is home to just seven of the city’s 95 historic districts and the community of Richmond Hill was recently turned down for a similar proposal.

Graziano said, however, that the LPC decision is by no means final and he is optimistic the commission can be swayed by a loud public outcry.

“What needed to happen happened today,” Graziano said. “The one good thing about the LPC’s decision is that they made everyone angry. You can’t imagine the amount of people I’ve come across who are upset about this. So I’m optimistic we can get this done.”

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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