Woodhaven Residents Want Building Demolished

BY LUIS GRONDA
Staff Writer

“Tear it down!”

Woodhaven residents chanted those words over and over again Sunday afternoon, demanding the City to demolish the collapsed building adjacent to the Woodhaven-Richmond Hill Volunteer Ambulance Corps headquarters on Jamaica Avenue.

The abandoned building at 78-19 Jamaica Ave. collapsed nearly a year ago, caving in on the center of the facility and damaging the ambulance corps’ headquarters next door.

The incident has left the ambulance corps without a base of operations and the senior center located within the building has been forced to relocate. Now, residents are urging the City to take swift action and tear down the building before it gets worse.

“If I were a lawyer in a courtroom, I would just have to point to it and say ‘exhibit A,’” said Ed Wendell, a member of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, who helped organize the rally.

According to a Dept. of Buildings spokeswoman, the agency inspected the area last week and told residents the building is in no danger of caving in, but residents are fearful that it could collapse further, leading to more damage and possible death.

“I look at that thing and I just have to say to them, ‘you’re 100 percent wrong,’” he said, adding that nothing was done about the situation when the DOB first said that the building could collapse.

Kathy Sexton-Dalby, president of the Ambulance Corps., said the area has taken on even more damage since the collapse and it needs to be addressed immediately.

“Now the back room has been damaged, the walls need to be removed, floor needs to be taken out, it’s just unbelievable,” she said.

The seniors that used to call that area home say they would like to be back at the center, which provides a more convenient location and its bigger space enables them to offer more programs. The center has been relocated to the American Legion on 91st Street off of Woodhaven Boulevard. A van carries seniors to the temporary location but some seniors choose to stay home because the location is too far.

“Where we are now located, its more inward, more isolated and some of our seniors are not happy about going there,” said JoAnn Bartos, a volunteer and member of the senior center.

The Ambulance Corps is suing the owner of the property for $13 million to recoup lost revenue during the time that it has been closed. Both State Sen. Joe Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said they are looking into creating legislation that would allow the City to take over and demolish a vacant property like the one in Woodhaven if the owner did not take action within 90 days.

The DOB spokeswoman said the agency issued an arrest warrant for the building’s owner, George Kochabe. He appeared in court last week and was ordered to hire an architect or engineer and file for a work permit before his next court date, which is April 10.

Reach Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, lgronda@queenstribune.com, or @luisgronda.