Council designates despite owners’ objections

Owners claim financial hardship. The full Council approved Landmarks’ designation of two Staten Island homes over the protest of the current owners. Landmarks had unanimously approved the designation of the 1850-built DeHart House in Tottenville at its May 16th meeting and later voted on June 13th to make the Mark W. Allen house, a 1920s Craftmans style bungalow in West New Brighton, an individual landmark. 3 CityLand 78 (June 15, 2006); 3 CityLand 96 (July 15, 2006).

Both owners opposed designation of their homes at the August 14th hearing before the City Council’s Subcommittee on Landmarks, Siting & Maritime Uses.

The owner of the Mark W. Allen House, Marie Busiello, alleged that her house was singled out for designation because Council Member Michael McMahon’s chief of staff lived next door and designation would stop her plan to sell the lot to a developer.

Busiello explained that she was in contract with developer Kenneth Formica when Formica received a letter from Council Member McMahon with a handwritten greeting telling Formica that the City was considering designating her home. Busiello provided a copy of the letter. Following that, Formica cancelled the deal. Busiello claimed that landmarking would reduce the sale price and cause her financial hardship since she needed to sell the house. She added that her home was deteriorated and lacking original historic fabric since she had made significant changes to it over the years, including replacing the entire roof.

Council Member Jessica Lappin, the Subcommittee Chair, responded that Busiello’s home had been on preservation wish lists for over 20 years and also relayed McMahon’s apologies for being absent from the hearing. Lappin said that the concern was over the building being razed and informed Busiello that she should list the bungalow for sale instead of marketing the lot as a development opportunity.

During testimony regarding the DeHart House, Carmen Garner, a Staten Island real estate broker, spoke for the owner, Marie Bedell, who also attended. Garner explained that several cash sales fell through due to the proposed designation and a down-zoning of the lot. She stressed that Bedell, who is 88, desperately needed to sell the property since she could no longer live independently.

The Subcommittee closed the hearing without a vote. When it reconvened on August 15th, Council Member Andrew J. Lanza of Staten Island urged designation of both homes, explaining that landmarking does impact property rights but the process is a legitimate function of government. Although several council members expressed concern over the impact of the designation on Bedell, only Council Members Charles Barron and Annabel Palma voted against both designations. The full Council approved by a final vote of 47-2-2 with Council Members Barron and Palma remaining opposed.

Council: Mark W. Allen House (August 16, 2006); Theodore H./Elizabeth J. DeHart House (August 16, 2006). CITYADMIN


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