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Landmarks Rejects Bid to Save Famed Musican's Former House in Astoria

 The Dulcken House at 31-07 31st Ave. in Astoria.
The Dulcken House at 31-07 31st Ave. in Astoria.
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DNAinfo/Jeanmarie Evelly

ASTORIA — Local historians are campaigning to save a house in the neighborhood once home to a well-known musician and composer — but the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) says the building has been too significantly altered to warrant landmark status.

The Greater Astoria Historical Society submitted a Request for Evaluation to the LPC in March for the pale yellow 3-story house at 31-07 31st Ave. near 31st Street, which they say was home to Ferdinand Quentin Dulcken, a pianist, composer and music teacher.

The house was purchased by for nearly $1.4 million in 2015, records show. Its owner, George Hrisikopoulos, filed plans with the Department of Buildings in March to develop the site into a 6-story apartment building with a restaurant on the first floor.

He declined to comment when reached by phone on Friday.

"This is a significant cultural landmark," said Bob Singleton, director of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. "It just doesn’t make the community look good to see something like that destroyed."

But in its response to the Greater Astoria Historical Society last month, the LPC said the building had been too dramatically altered through the years, citing the "removal of architectural detail" from its roof and windows as well as changes to its porch.

"Due to the extent of the alterations and amount of non-historic fabric present, this building does not rise to the level of architectural and cultural significance necessary for designation as an individual landmark," the agency said.

Singleton says he plans to submit another Request for Evaluation to the commission, this time stressing the site's importance to the city's early music scene.

According to Singleton, Dulcken lived in the house between 1876 and 1901. He was from a German family of renowned musicians who, along with the Steinways, the famous piano-makers, helped "make New York City the worldwide center of entertainment," according to the historical society.

"The Dulckens…played a very important role in establishing probably the greatest asset that New York City has today — as being a place of creativity, of being a place of the arts," Singleton said.

He and other preservationists would like the site restored as a museum or performance space. Neil Herdan, another member of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, envisions it functioning like the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Flushing.

"At least have some restoration reflecting its old historical purpose," he said, suggesting that perhaps some elements of the original building could be incorporated into a new design or renovation. "Some parts of it can be saved."

Singleton says the campaign now relies on public support, particularly from local elected officials, in order to succeed.

He started an online petition calling for Councilman Costa Constantindes to join the fight to preserve the building, which has more than 400 signatures. A rep for the lawmaker referred questions about the property to the LPC.

Singleton said he finds the lack of support "incomprehensible."

"A successful community is not to bulldoze everything into oblivion," he said. "A successful community is when you can combine the new with the old."