May 14, 2015 By Jackie Strawbridge
Councilman Costa Constantinides is seeking a partner to help buy the Steinway Mansion and turn it into a cultural destination, a plan that he said the mansion’s current owners support.
The historic Steinway Mansion, once owned by the famous piano-maker family, sits on a hill in a quiet commercial corridor in Astoria. It was purchased last May by mystery buyers, later revealed to include Astoria attorney Philip Loria, after several years on the market and a slashing of the original asking price.
Constantinides said he is hoping to find an entity, such as a city agency or cultural institution, that can take on the costs of buying the Steinway Mansion, as well as renovating the house and running it as a cultural site. According to the Councilman, the new owners have been open to the idea of selling off the mansion since they purchased the property.
“[The owners] have worked with us to help find that partner,” he said.
The Councilman was unsure as to why the owners would be willing to sell the mansion so soon after its purchase. A receptionist at Loria’s firm said he is not commenting on the property at this time.
Constantinides said it has been challenging to find the right entity to buy and run the mansion.
“We’re frustrated in our inability to find a suitable partner so far,” he said.
He noted that he had spoken with the Historic House Trust, the Parks Department and the Department of Cultural Affairs among other agencies and groups, but that “there’s no one that could take ownership today and be self sustaining.”
“We still haven’t been able to find that partner yet, that will take us on this journey, that has the capacity to renovate and run the mansion on a day to day operation. It needs upkeep,” he added.
While Constantinides is willing to provide some city funding, he said, “We can’t do it all through city tax dollars.”
The mansion, including the parcel of land that it sits on, sold for $1.7 million last year, according to Department of Finance records.
Constantinides resisted giving a dollar estimate for renovation and upkeep costs, but noted, “it would be an undertaking… the number is not small.”
Before last year’s purchase, the Friends of Steinway Mansion, an initiative of the Greater Astoria Historical Society, was created with a similar mission to buy and restore the mansion through a fundraising campaign. On its website, the group estimates that restoration would cost roughly $4 million over at least five years.
As the Councilman continues his search for a purchaser, the surrounding property is in flux.
Last summer, plans were filed with the Department of Buildings for the construction of a group of two-story “manufacturing buildings” around the mansion on 41st and 42nd Streets. Loria’s firm is listed on zoning documents associated with these plans, and Constantinides confirmed, “[the owners] are looking to develop part of that property that’s not landmarked.”
As a designated landmark, the mansion itself is protected against alterations.
Constantinides said he does not begrudge the owners their right to build around the Steinway Mansion.
“The new owners have a vision for what they’d like to do with other parts of the lot and we respect that,” he said.
Last month, the Friends of Steinway Mansion began circulating images of recently-chopped trees around the mansion property, which had sat on the land slated for construction.