“There’s this neighborhood of warehouses and in the middle, on top of this hill is this incredible old house,” said Miles Chapin, the great-grandson of Steinway & Sons co-founder William Steinway. “It’s really outstanding.”
The mansion was declared a landmark by the city in 1967, which means its facade cannot be altered without approval from the Landmarks Preservation Commission. But the rules don’t say anything about the yard around the estate.
Not long after Philip Loria, an attorney in Astoria, and his business partner Sal Lucchese bought the mansion plus an acre of land for $2.6 million in 2014, rumblings began about possible development.
Last spring, residents noticed some trees had been cut down and the warehouses began to appear, forming an L-shape around the front and side of the mansion.
The new buildings hit the market in late February with a price tag between $1.8 and $2.3 million each. Ranging from 3,600 to 5,400 square feet, the structures promise a modern design with state-of-the-art features.
Loria said the warehouses, which have generated a good deal of interest from potential buyers, are a “perfect fit” for the location.
“The area called for that type of development,” he said.
For his part, Chapin understands the allure of the mansion. But he also understands the economic realities and the influence of the real estate market. In addition to being a Steinway heir, Chapin is also a real estate agent and co-chairman of the Real Estate Board of New York’s Queens Residential Committee.
While he said the best use of the site may be to preserve the land as a community resource, he recognizes the greatest value, in financial terms at least, likely lies in building warehouses on the site.
“There is no better example of free market capitalism than the real estate market in New York City,” he said. “This is a city of progress. Anytime something is gained, something is usually lost.”
Perhaps no one would understand that better than William Steinway, who was himself a successful businessman with various business interests throughout Queens.
“There are all kinds of ironies involved with any use or reuse of the Steinway property,” Chapin said.
Photo from George The Atheist