Tottenville Landmark Continues to Deteriorate

From the Staten Island Advance

Tensions rise over landmarked home in Tottenville
Neighbor tells police and City Hall that owner of the decaying house threatened her family
Thursday, March 29, 2007
By KAREN O’SHEA
ADVANCE STAFF WRITER
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — A battered landmark house in Tottenville is sparking anger and now fear, with some complaining that nothing has been done to fix the historic eyesore while the owner’s relationship with his neighbors deteriorates in frightening fashion.

Tensions reached a boiling point recently when builder John Grossi went to a neighbor’s house to complain about delays in getting approvals from City Planning to restore the Amboy Road landmark and build four new homes behind it — the same plan the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission signed off on last May as the best way to save the house.

The neighbor told police that a frustrated Grossi threatened her and she forwarded those concerns to City Hall, saying in an e-mail that it has been like living with a “walking time bomb” in the community.

At least two other people said they had also complained about Grossi at the 123rd Precinct stationhouse over the last few years.

Grossi has been the reluctant owner of the house at 7484 Amboy Rd. ever since finding out, shortly after he bought the building for $675,000 in 2005, that Landmarks had put a hold on his demolition permit. He reacted by spray-painting with neon colors the 1869 Second Empire house.

19TH CENTURY STRUCTURE

City Hall responded by landmarking the home shortly after the incident. And the condition of the house, once one of the finer homes on Amboy Road, has only worsened since then.

Linda Hauck, a member of the Tottenville Historical Society, said she was home alone March 15 when Grossi and another man came to her door. She alleges that Grossi made a threat against her family; she called police and made a formal complaint at the 123rd Precinct station.

The next day, Grossi was at the stationhouse lodging a complaint of his own. In his report, the builder said “unknown persons” broke four windows at the landmark house.

Mrs. Hauck and Grossi disagree on what exactly transpired at her house, with Grossi denying he made a threat, but the two agree on one thing: The city’s process for saving the landmark is flawed.

“It has just gone on too long,” said Mrs. Hauck, who lives in her own small, well-kept 19th-century home on Johnson Avenue, down the block from the badly damaged landmark Bedell house.

A sign on her lawn encourages Tottenville residents to take pride in their town. Other residents have posted the same sign in front of their homes in the two years since Grossi vandalized his house and other builders took down a succession of older homes on Amboy Road to make way for townhouses.

“Everyone is dragging their feet and the house, of course, is suffering. I’ve asked everybody — all the agencies connected — to come up with a better plan because this one is not working,” added Mrs. Hauck, who would like to see the city purchase the home and restore it.

Grossi said he didn’t threaten Mrs. Hauck when he went to her house. In a phone interview, he blamed her for supporting the landmarking but not helping him get approvals for a restoration plan. He said the delays are costing him $6,000 a month and he can’t get financing for restoration until he has all his approvals.

“She should be concerned because there is bad karma around her. It ain’t because of me. I’m here trying to get this whole house going with the city,” he said.

“If you made someone lose one million dollars and tried to ruin their life, would you be worried?” he added.

City Planning is still reviewing Grossi’s proposal to restore the house and build four historic-looking homes behind it. Grossi needs a special permit requiring a public review and votes by the City Planning Commission and City Council, all of which could add several more months to the process.

“This house isn’t restored because of the city — it’s not because of me,” Grossi added.

Posted Under: Neglect, Staten Island, Tottenville

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