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Neighbors not surprised by Doug blaze

A firefighter gathers a hose outside the scene of a devastating fire, which tore through a centuries-old home under construction in Douglaston. Photo by Christina Santucci
TimesLedger Newspapers

Neighbors surrounding the Douglaston home ravaged by fire earlier this month have returned to their soot-filled buildings over the last week, trying to make sense of how such a controversial project was not approached with more caution.

A three-alarm fire severely damaged the home, at 39-12 Douglaston Pkwy., which was undergoing an expansion to the original farmhouse built in the late 1800s. The blaze tore through the inside of the residence around 7:30 p.m. Aug. 14 and spread to neighboring properties before it was doused by emergency responders, fire officials said.

Neighbor Jim McCann called the fire into the police and said he had to vacate his home for days before being able to return.

“We spent days cleaning all the smoke and soot,” McCann said. “We are looking at a five-figures estimate to repair our roof, gutters and repaint the side of the house.”

Although the Fire Department ruled the fire was accidental and caused by torch work being done on some pipes at the construction site, the wife of the property owner said she was aware her neighbors were not fans of the home’s elaborate renovation plans.

“We think maybe somebody just didn’t like the house,” said Jean Huang, wife of homeowner David Huang. “We try to do our best to cooperate with the community.”

The Huang family’s basic insurance did not cover the extent of the damage on the home’s rear 80-foot yard extension, which has been under construction since 2007. And since the family decided to upgrade the property with an extension almost four times the size of the small home, Community Board 11 officials said the surrounding community had trouble accepting the renovations.

“I would have loved to have had the original house that was there,” said neighbor Tom Greaney, who lives across the street and reported hearing two explosions as the fire spread. “It was a gorgeous house.”

The Douglaston property had received a total of 46 complaints about overstepping its construction boundaries since March 2008 throughout the ongoing renovation, according to the city Department of Buildings.

McCann, who once led a charge to landmark the Douglaston Parkway home nearly four years ago before a divided community dropped the idea, said there was no surprise in seeing the fate of the Douglaston home.

“All of those complaints speak for themselves,” McCann said. “The fire attests to the horrendous construction work being done there.”

Jean Huang said her family simply wanted to move on from the controversy and hopefully move forward with some sort of renovation plans.

“I expect the neighbors to be nice so we can finish the job and make the community nice,” Huang said.

And though the flames have long since been extinguished, neighbors like McCann will spend the coming weeks working to undo the destruction created by the flames.

“[David Huang] did a lot of damage because of this,” McCann said. “He owes us all an apology.”

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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LOU from BAYSIDE says:
Sounds like a little anti asian bias going on in exclusive Douglaston. If you dont like the designs going up get your wonderfuil political hacks to change the zoning. They can do anything. They were successful in getting the exit on the LIE to Douglaston closed off! There is nothing they cant do!
Aug. 30, 2012, 8:30 am
G from Douglaston says:
Hey Lou,

Maybe you should check the demographics of the neighborhood before coming to such conclusions? There are plenty of Asian families in the area and they have been welcomed into the community. This is simply an example of a community that does not appreciate nor tolerate when a homeowner decides to ignore almost every construction rule and regulation while constructing. Using the system to ensure safety and legality is what educated people do. This owner is arrogant and is quick to point fingers at everyone but himself. Case in point, he denies there were any safety issues at the site even after a fire caused the entire structure to burn to the ground while also causing serious damage to the neighboring houses. I feel no sorrow for the home owners and hope that they realize the scrutiny that they will be under going forward should they attempt to rebuild at the site.
Sept. 10, 2012, 1:35 pm
Tony from Whitestone says:
Lou is just ALFREDO CENTOLA. This man likes using phony names to sheepishly hide behind all his endless pointless points. We try to keep him in Whitestone but sometimes he strays.

A like a little anti asian bias on your part, Al.
Sept. 11, 2012, 9:24 am

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