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Avella rallies to help Astoria homeowners

Engineer's photos show the damage to a property on 32nd Street, which borders a medical facility being built in Astoria. Photos courtesy Rob Draghi
The medical facility was covered with scaffolding in March.
TimesLedger Newspapers

The developer of an Astoria medical facility is planning to take several homeowners to court to access their properties and fix problems residents say occurred during construction of the 8-story structure.

Pali Realty, which is building the Medical Ambulatory Care Center, at 23-25 31st St., is seeking a court order so it can gain access to the homeowners’ backyards, something the owners have refused to provide because of extensive damage they say the construction has caused.

Pali Realty is represented by Driscoll Group Inc., led by lobbyist Bill Driscoll.

“In order to comply with the BSA ruling we have to go on to our neighbors’ property to make the changes that they requested,” Driscoll said. “We’ll go to court later this week seeking permission for access.”

When the building was 80 percent complete in July 2012, an auditor found that the facility was too large and violated the local zoning law, and 10 months later, the city Board of Standards and Appeals ruled that work could continue.

But, because the building is oversized, there is no room to safely work on the rear of the facility, so access to the neighbors’ yards is necessary so as to build a scaffold.

The homeowners charged that the BSA ruling allowing construction to resume gave away the only bargaining chip they had in the fight to be re-compensated for damage.

“Fix our houses and we’ll give you access,” said Robert Draghi, whose home is at 23-26 32nd St. He said that five homes at the rear of the construction site have developed large cracks to their foundations that residents contend began when Pali Realty began the building’s steelwork in 2012.

“They’ve never made any restitution for the damage they’ve caused,” Draghi said, adding, “They wanted their building their way, and they just don’t care about the rest of the community.”

City Councilmember Peter Vallone (D-Astoria), who represents the area, came to a conclusion in March that he preferred that the construction continue saying, “That’s a very difficult situation. I’m extremely unhappy about it but unfortunately, there’s no right way to do anything about it.”

However, the Astoria homeowners have some help from state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

“I often go out of the district, even to other boroughs, because so many city agencies and the mayor’s office turn a blind eye to these abuses,” Avella said.

Avella went on to point a finger at his colleagues in government, saying, “It’s my opinion that the real estate businesses in this city are so powerful that politicians are afraid to jump into the fray.”

Avella joined homeowners at two small rallies in May and again last month, which he and residents hoped would draw some attention to the problem.

Draghi said he was surprised Avella continued to work with homeowners, after he dropped his bid to be borough president in August.

The Medical Ambulatory Care Center is slated to provide outpatient care for those able to walk and are not bed ridden. A two-story underground garage, which will hold 135 cars, is also part of the facility.

Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparry@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

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