Landmarked SI village hall destroyed through neglect

Landmark status of SI lot officially revoked. On December 21, 2006, Landmarks rescinded the designation of the now vacant lot at 66 Lafayette Avenue in New Brighton, Staten Island, where the New Brighton Village Hall once stood, and after years of neglect, faced demolition.

Landmarks Chair Robert Tierney commenced the hearing with a brief recital of the hall’s history. Landmarks designated the 1871- built hall in 1965. After several failed incarnations, including a doctor’s office, Retrovest Associates purchased the hall in 1985, received Landmarks permits to renovate, but never started the work. The building deteriorated.

After years of neglect, Landmarks sued Retrovest for its failure to maintain, but while the case was pending, a windstorm destroyed the hall’s roof. Exposed to the elements, its deterioration accelerated, forcing the Department of Buildings to order the hall to be demolished as unsafe. Retrovest ceded the site to the City, and ultimately paid $1.1 million in penalties and settlement costs. After the City demolished the building, it started discussion with Staten Island’s Sisters of Charity for development of a subsidized housing project for the elderly on the site. In order for construction to proceed, Landmarks needed to rescind the designation.

At the hearing, Bethesda Williams of the Historic Districts Council stated that HDC found itself in the odd position of neither opposing nor supporting the rescission. Williams urged that that the new building be made to commemorate the original hall. A speaker from the Preservation League of Staten Island expressed hope that Landmarks would react faster to avert similar loss of designated buildings. She specifically drew attention to the Bedell House on Amboy Road, which she claimed would enter its second winter without windows.

Tierney commenced the discussion, stating that he saw “no alternative” to the rescission, and the Sisters of Charity project should proceed unimpeded. Commissioner Pablo Vengochea called the situation a “sad state of affairs”, and reflected that “we need something to strengthen our teeth.” Mark Silberman, General Counsel for Landmarks, responded that the agency had been trying to address this issue for the past ten years, and that they are “moving very aggressively” when they hear of instances of neglect. Landmarks unanimously approved the rescission.

LPC: New Brighton Village Hall, 66 Lafayette Avenue (LP-2222) (Dec. 21, 2006).

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.