Dreams of turning the historic Steinway Mansion in Astoria into a public space for Queens families to enjoy may be over. The property is reportedly under contract with a private buyer, according to Queens Buzz. On sale since August 2010, the 27-room Italianate villa-style home has dropped in price from nearly $5 million to less than $2 million but previously was unable to attract a buyer because of the considerable taxes and costs associated with maintaining the enormous home and one-acre property.
The mansion, which features many gorgeous architectural details (see photos and a floorplan), was built in 1858 by businessman Benjamin Pike and sold 10 years later to piano-man William Steinway, who lived there with his family for 50 years and operated the Steinway & Sons piano-manufacturing factory nearby. The Steinways sold the property in 1926 to Jack Halberian, who raised his family there and passed it along to his son Michael Halberian upon his death in 1976. Michael Halberian undertook an extensive restoration of the mansion and lived there until his death in 2010, when it was then put up for sale.
Many then hoped New York City or Queens government officials would step in to purchase the property, but despite the price reductions and years on the market no such plan emerged to preserve the mansion’s legacy. Still hoping the mansion and its land could be turned into a museum and used as a public community space, a group of individuals, businesses, government representatives and community groups united to form the Friends of Steinway Mansion, a program of the Greater Astoria Historical Society. They tried to raise $5 million to $9 million to purchase, restore, and maintain the site through fund-raising efforts such as an inaugural music festival in the fall of last year, as well as reaching out to the New York arts community, local residents and businesses, politicians and corporations for donations. Unfortunately, the group has not yet met its necessary goal to make an offer on the mansion.
While the home was landmarked by the City of New York in 1966 and placed on listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, that designation only prevents changes to the outside of the structure. Moreover, sale to a private buyer likely means the landmark would not be available for public use.
If you care about preserving the Steinway Mansion for public use, call the Queens Borough President’s Office at 718.286.3000 to express your opinion and urge them to prevent the sale to a private buyer.