'Friends of Steinway Mansion' Will Start Fundraising to Buy Historic Home

By Jeanmarie Evelly on May 8, 2013 9:34am 

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 The group is hoping to purchase the Astoria property to one day turn it into a museum or community space.
Steinway Mansion in Astoria
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DITMARS — A coalition of Queens stakeholders advocating for a community use of the iconic Steinway Mansion in Astoria will start fundraising soon in an effort to buy the historic property, the group said recently.

The Friends of Steinway Mansion held a community meeting Monday night, where organizers said they plan to launch an official fundraising campaign later this month. The group is currently setting up a bank account to accept donations, they said.

"This is an absolute opportunity for our community and it's future," said Bob Singleton, executive director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, which has been leading the effort to see the property purchased and turned into a museum or cultural center.

“Most communities would give their right arm for something like this,” he said.

Located at 18-33 41st St., the landmarked sprawling 27-room mansion was once home to the famous piano-making Steinway family, who Singleton credits as having put New York City on the music and cultural map.

The Halberian family, which bought the site in 1925, put it up for sale several years ago, and the asking price has dropped several times as a buyer has yet to come forward. Listings show the property is currently going for $1.9 million, a $1 million drop from its initial price tag, according to the Daily News.

Singleton said the owner would like the site preserved for a community use, but are eager to sell it quickly.

“This is costing the family thousands of dollars to maintain,” he said. “We can’t wait a year and a day. We need to proceed with all expediency possible.”

The Friends of Steinway Mansion coalition includes the Greater Astoria Historical Society, the Long Island City-based Artisans Guild of America, the Queens Economic Development Corp. and a number of politicians, including Assemblywomen Margaret Markey and Aravella Simotas, and Astoria Democratic District Leader and City Council candidate Costa Constantinides.

The Steinway & Sons Company itself has also signed on to support the effort, Singleton said.

But their goal remains a challenging one, he admits. In addition to raising enough money to buy the property, the group will likely need millions of additional dollars to restore the mansion, and will also need to raise a separate batch of funds to pay for its operation as a public space.

The mansion could also be a valuable economic engine for Queens if they could turn it into a destination as a museum, cultural center or performance hall, he said.

“This is absolutely a business opportunity,” he said. “We think the economic benefits of this will be substantial, in terms of real estate values, in terms of employment.”

Singleton said they plan to move quickly to raise the funds, pressing those who came to Monday night’s meeting that the issue is an urgent one. Though the Steinway Mansion was designated a New York City landmark in 1967, that status does not completely guarantee its preservation, he said.

“The exterior of the mansion is protected, but not the interior. In the wrong hands, someone can hack this property apart and sell it,” he told the crowd. “If we lose it, whether it’s right or wrong, it will come back to our community and be a reflection of us.”

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