Douglaston Hill House to be decided on at City Council

From the New York Sun

Council Weighs Historic District Dispute
BY ELIOT BROWN – Special to the Sun
July 13, 2007

A protracted dispute between a Queens couple and the city is nearing a terminus, as the City Council is mulling over the historic status of a Douglaston home.

The micro-battle, which could come to an end after a City Council vote later this month, has ignited residents’ emotions in the tree-lined, spacious neighborhood of northeastern Queens, pitting advocates of historic preservation against those claiming the supremacy of homeowner rights.

Heated back-and-forth exchanges about the house have been held in the local papers and on Web logs, and the local historic group, the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society, chartered a bus to bring members to testify at a hearing on the matter. At the center of the fight are Kevin and Diana Mosley, attorneys who bought a house in Douglaston months before it was designated as part of the 31-house Douglaston Hill Historic District.

The house was designated as part of the district in part because of its age, with an application claiming it was built in the late 1800s. Upon renovating the house, the couple found the actual date to be in the 1920s, and successfully sued to remove the property from the historic district and shed the development restrictions it carries.

More than a year after the suit was resolved, the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission reexamined the house and voted earlier this year to designate it once again as within the historic district, this time based on its revised construction date.

The house has been altered by renovations, Ms. Mosley said, and its 1920s construction date should exempt it from the district.

“At this point, the district has been formed. We haven’t been in it for 15 months — there’s really no valid reason as to why they would come looking for us,” Ms. Mosley said. “It’s just wrong to abridge a homeowners rights without a really important, significant reason.”

The Landmarks Preservation Commission said it designated the house because of its historic value, and supporters claim the home’s absence affects the value of the entire district.

“There’s a long list of prior or supporting opinions that this is an integral part of what finally emerged as the Douglaston Hill Historic District,” a vice president of the Douglaston/Little Neck Historical Society, William Sievers, said.

The issue will go before a City Council subcommittee on July 23.

“There is a distinct sense of place in Douglaston Hill, and I think this house contributes,” the chairwoman of the subcommittee on landmarks, public siting and maritime uses, Jessica Lapin, said.

Posted Under: City Council, Designation, Douglaston, Queens

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