Tottenville Owners Complains of Preservation Perverts

From the Staten Island Advance

Homeowner complains of preservation perverts
He tells hearing they have peered in his windows since city said it would landmark his Tottenville property

Wednesday, April 11, 2007
By KAREN O’SHEA
ADVANCE STAFF WRITER

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Move over, Peeping Toms. A Tottenville homeowner has identified a new scourge: Preservation perverts.

Douglas Ford complained yesterday that the uninvited visitors have been peering in the windows of his 1850s home on Arthur Kill Road — and knocking on his door — ever since the city Landmarks Preservation Commission announced its intention to designate the house as a New York City Landmark.

He spoke at a public hearing at commission headquarters in Manhattan that solicited comment on a batch of eight Island buildings being considered for landmark status.

Security was a key concern for Ford, who said the unwelcome attention began after the commission posted on its Web site his address and information about his historic house, built by oysterman Reuben Wood in the mid-19th century.

“I just want to live in peace in my house,” he told the commission.

Preservationists and community leaders welcomed the unprecedented clustered nominations after years of what they said was the demolition and destruction of historic homes in the borough. Chan Graham, a member of the Preservation League of Staten Island, called it an “exciting day” for Staten Island.

“We know we have great buildings here and we know we’ve been ignored,” Graham said after the marathon morning hearings ended. “It seems to me that [Landmarks] is starting to recognize the fabulous fabric of buildings we have here.”

Some owners of those buildings told the commission yesterday that they supported the landmarking of their homes for posterity, while others argued that such designation would hurt them financially and penalize them for being good stewards of their historic buildings.

NO VOTE DATE SET

A Landmarks spokeswoman could not say yesterday when the commission will vote on the houses under consideration.

In addition to Ford’s house, buildings under consideration include an 1880s Second Empire house on Bayview Avenue, Prince’s Bay; an 1850s Gothic Revival-style home on Amboy Road, Pleasant Plains; a 19th-century villa on Meisner Avenue, Lighthouse Hill; a mid-19th-century Greek Revival-style mansion, Todt Hill, and an 1840s farm house on Amboy Road in Great Kills.

A small turn-of-the-century Victorian storefront on Main Street in Tottenville and a large factory on Richmond Terrace in Elm Park, the former Standard Varnish Works, round out the slate.

Ed Drury, owner of the former Varnish Works, said a freight barge terminal was interested in buying his former waterfront factory and bringing nearly 500 jobs to the site, which is part of the North Shore Empire Zone. Drury said the company pulled out and went to New Jersey when he told them that Landmarks was interested in the property. He said another tenant can’t renovate the facade because of the pending Landmarks question.

“We are trying to bring back economic growth,” he told a reporter yesterday. “The other side of the coin is that they are trying to stop it.”

Attorney Howard Zipser told the commission his client, the owner of a Circle Road house on Todt Hill, would not oppose landmarking. The Greek Revival mansion was moved to Todt Hill from Enfield, Mass., in 1931, when homes in the area were moved to make way for a reservoir.

WAS SHERIFF’S HOME

Homeowner Russell Powell also said he backed the landmarking of his 1880s house in Prince’s Bay, the onetime home to sheriff and Richmond County Clerk John Elsworth. But Powell, who runs his own restoration company and was able to expertly restore his home, asked the commission to consider ways to offer financial help and tax relief to those who don’t embrace landmarking.

Joseph and Sheila Diamond were distressed by the potential landmarking of their early-19th-century farmhouse on Amboy Road in Great Kills.

Joseph Diamond said Landmarks passed up another 19th-century home on his block because it was in bad shape, but staff settled on his well-kept home. Diamond said he worried that landmarking his house without designating other houses in the neighborhood would devalue his property.

He said he was even told by Landmarks staff that he would not be able to put back the shutters he recently took down, unless he replaced them with original, period shutters. Sheila Diamond, his wife, estimated that could cost $10,000.

“They are punishing us for the irresponsible builders on Staten Island,” Sheila Diamond said of the landmarking process.

Karen O’Shea covers real estate news for the Advance. She may be reached at oshea@siadvance.com

© 2007 Staten Island Advance

Posted Under: Designation, Staten Island, Tottenville

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