BY DANIEL OFFNER
Excavation of property surrounding the landmark Steinway Mansion in Astoria is underway, according to residents who have reported seeing heavy construction equipment in operation around the historic homestead.
According to permits filed with the Department of Buildings, the ongoing construction work is part of the owner’s plans to develop 11 two-story manufacturing buildings on properties surrounding the mansion.
The mansion, located at 18-33 41st St., was built in the mid-1800s and purchased in 1870 by the Steinway family, who held onto the mansion until 1926.
By 2010, the property was put on the market at an asking price of $5 million. However, it wasn’t sold until 2014, when investors Philip Loria and Sal Lucchese acquired the Steinway Mansion for $2.6 million.
“I believe all the information has been made public,” an unidentified caller with Lucchese’s company, Showcase Designs Corp., said. Calls to Loria were not returned as of press time.
Bob Singleton, executive director of the Friends of the Steinway Mansion, said news of the excavation may lead to a number of troubling issues. Singleton said that in Dec. 1989, the New York Institute of Anthropology published an archeological survey of a mound located on the lot, wherein researchers found Native American artifacts that are sometimes associated with burials.
“Is it not interesting that for a Borough that prides itself with cultural diversity, that there is no stop work order to investigate the 4,000-year-old Native American site and the possibility of remains, as they did with the African-American burial grounds found in Manhattan,” Singleton said.
Singleton, who previously led the effort to purchase and restore the mansion into a multi-purpose facility, explained that when he first learned someone else bought the mansion, it was with the understanding that the investors were working with elected officials to ensure the mansion remains a link between the Astoria community and its history.
“This is private property,” Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) said. “We’ve been working with [the investors] to try and find a partner to work with us… but there is no nonprofit or city agency that can meet what we need there.”
Constantinides said despite his best efforts, he has been unable to find someone able to move the Steinway Mansion out of the private realm, which would require millions in caretaking and operation costs.
“We’re left right back where we started,” Constantinides added. “[The investors] are not doing anything that is outside of zoning to that parcel; they’re not doing anything indecent to the community; they’re not asking for licenses.”
Reach Daniel Offner at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 125, email@example.com, or @DanielOffner.