The demolition of what has been called an historic house in the Village of Dering Harbor sparked outrage among residents, with the action coming just days before the Board of Trustees was to consider a moratorium on demolishing houses to prevent the loss of buildings with historic character.
A building permit to raze the house at 4 Sylvester Road had been secured from Building Inspector George Butts; the Village’s Zoning Code also required notice to be given to the Board of Trustees and landowners within 250 feet of the property 10 days prior to the demolition. It’s not clear whether the Trustees had been notified; notices to the neighboring residents may have been mailed to local post office boxes, although many Villagers are at winter homes this time of year,
Village resident George Birman said that even if the procedure may have been technically legal, there had been considerable concern voiced by residents about such demolitions and the Trustees had discussed it at previous meetings, with the moratorium placed on the agenda for a meeting at 9 a.m. this Saturday, Feb. 12.
“It was not very democratic,” Mr. Birman said, for the approval to be given in the face of “all the discussion and concern raised by the public.” In addition to Mr. Birman, other residents raised the concern at the Board’s January meeting.
The Sylvester Road house was recently purchased from Maria Catsoulis Kempf by Ken Tropin, who owns adjoining properties including the Mostly Hall estate once owned by heiress Rachel Carpenter. According to Mr. Birman, the house just demolished had been the childhood home of the late Alice Fiske, who later lived at Sylvester Manor. A gazebo nearby had been given to the Village by her family.
Several other properties have recently changed hands or are about to, and several residents have complained that there is no way to prevent further demolition of houses that may have historic or architectural character that is an essential attribute of the Village. While there are strict standards for new construction or remodeling houses, the demolition question is a loophole, some feel.
If a building is crumbling and in severe disrepair, demolition can be justified, but there are not sufficient safeguards to prevent a historic house from being torn down, Mr. Birman said. He sent photos of the demolition to all Village residents and the Reporter, urging those who shared his concern to attend the meeting Saturday.
“We’re going to lose the soul of this place,” he said.
The Reporter has reached out to Village Mayor Patrick Parcells and the building inspector to discuss the procedure for this demolition’s approval.