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Local News November 16, 2012  RSS feed

NEIGHBORLY BEEF OVER AN AWNING

Maspeth Owners Press City, COMET For Help
by Robert Pozarycki


The awning in the rear of the home of Elizabeth and James Chu of Maspeth has sparked a feud between the family and their next door neighbor over alleged building code violations. 
(photo: Nicholas Biondo) The awning in the rear of the home of Elizabeth and James Chu of Maspeth has sparked a feud between the family and their next door neighbor over alleged building code violations. (photo: Nicholas Biondo) When they decided to install an awning on the back of their Maspeth home, James and Elizabeth Chu had no idea how much trouble it would bring them.

The transparent covering was installed above the patio area in the rear of their 65th Place dwelling, but the owner of the home abutting their residence protested, claiming encroachment on their easement. This led to an ongoing feud between the property owners which not only led to a costly lawsuit but also legal action by several city agencies.

Facing these problems, the Chus came to last Monday’s (Nov. 5) meeting of the Communities of Maspeth and Elmhurst Together (COMET) civic association meeting at Bethzatha Church of God in Elmhurst seeking their advice and assistance in resolving the matter.

James Chu told the Times Newsweekly in a phone interview that he and his wife bought their 65th Place residence in November 2004. In the years since they moved in, their neighbor’s home was constructed; the residence directly abuts the Chu home and extends several feet adjacent to their rear yard.

Lot-line windows were also built in the rear of their neighbor’s home; according to James Chu, the windows violate the rules and regulations of the building code enforced by the city Department of Buildings (DOB).

The Chus recently installed the transparent awning above their patio area, leaving two feet of space from their neighbor’s building. Following the installation, James Chu noted, their neighbor claimed that the awning violated their easement, which was later found to extend over the Chus’ backyard.

James Chu told this paper that neither he nor his wife knew about the extended easement prior to and during the closing on their home back in November 2004.

“Meanwhile, the DOB is auditing our permits for the erection of a clear awning at the rear of our building,” Elizabeth Chu added in an email to the Times Newsweekly, “and the Environmental Control Board imposed a fine against us for having what everyone else on our block and neighborhood seems to have with or without a permit. Apparently, they think that we violated the law when we put up a standard weather protec- tion awning for which they issued a building permit, but that they made no error when they approved my neighbor’s lot line windows without the fire protection mandated by the building code.”

Buildings Department records indicated that multiple complaints were filed on each of their residences back in October. An examination of the records found that the complaints against the Chus’ property were determined to be unfounded, while no action had yet to be taken by DOB inspectors on their neighbor’s property.

The Chus’ neighbor has also filed a lawsuit against them for violating their easement as well as lighta nd air rights. As a result, James Chu noted that he was forced to hire two lawyers at great expense: one to fight the lawsuit, and the other to protest the easement of their property.

During last Monday’s COMET meeting, the Chus told residents that they’ve reached out to Assemblywoman Margaret Markey’s office about the issue; the office then contacted the DOB for further action, but James Chu claimed that the agency was not responding to their calls.

Civic members suggested that the homeowners also inform their local City Council member, Elizabeth Crowley, of the situation and ask for her support. They also suggested that they file a lawsuit against the title company which investigated the deed to their home and should have known about the easement issue prior to closing on the property.

Storm recovery

One week after Hurricane Sandy blew through New York City, COMET members also talked about the storm’s impact on the area and a number of relief projects underway to assist victims in the hardest-hit areas of the city.

Rosemarie Daraio, COMET president, urged residents to volunteer at local relief drives around the area and/or to donate supplies such as cleaning items and food.

The gasoline shortage following the storm has also impacted Maspeth, Elmhurst and Woodside, Daraio noted, pointing out reports of long lines at gas stations and even the siphoning of gas from parked cars around the area.

“I’ve been listening to the police scanner, and they are way up with the number of jobs,” she said, noting that local police have been responding to reports of fights breaking out at gas lines and even individuals allegedly selling gasoline out of the trunks of their cars.

The next COMET meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday night, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. at Bethzatha Church of God, located at 85-24 57th Ave. in Elmhurst.