Owner, Council Member clash on designation of SI bungalow

Owner claims house not unique and had been altered. On April 18, 2006, Landmarks held a hearing on the proposed designation of the Mark W. Allen house in Staten Island. The house exemplifies craftsman-style architecture, an indigenous American style that originated in California and became popular throughout the United States following World War I. The Allen house, one of very few craftsman bungalows built in Staten Island, is typified by its overhanging eaves, asymmetrical roof planes, and stone work. The house was built in 1920-21, for Mark W. Allen, a prominent Staten Island politician. Allen was known as the father of the Goethals Bridge and the Outer Bridge Crossover for his instrumental part in their development. Allen also served in the State Senate, as president of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, and unsuccessfully ran for Staten Island Borough President.

Proponents of designation included Council Member Michael McMahon, who called the bungalow “historically and architecturally significant,” and spoke of it serving as “a bridge to Staten Island’s pastoral past.” McMahon asked Landmarks to “act now to preserve the house for future generations of New Yorkers.” Community resident Michael Morrell, who also urged swift designation, spoke of Allen’s impact on the history of Staten Island’s North Shore, and called the house a “centerpiece of the neighborhood.”

The Allen house’s current owner, Marie Busiello, adamantly opposed landmarking her home, often interrupting designation supporters with mocking snorts and calls of “why don’t you buy it then?” When her turn to speak arrived, Busiello vigorously denied any architectural or historical significance to her home, asserting there were many similar bungalows all over the City, including seven on her block. Busiello claimed that her house had been on the market for over a year, and potential buyers had been dissuaded from bidding because of the possible landmark status, including one who backed out of a contract after receiving a call from Council Member McMahon. She alleged that McMahon was only interested in landmarking the building because his chief of staff lived next door. Busiello brought documentation to the hearing showing that she had done extensive work to the roof, gutters, and windows of the house, which she claimed had diminished the original fabric but had provoked no outcry from neighbors. Busiello ended her presentation with the statement that, as an American, she had the right to sell her property without interference.

Landmarks Chair Robert B. Tierney agreed to look at Busiello’s documents, and closed the hearing without further discussion.

LPC: Mark W. Allen House, 665 Clove Road, Staten Island (LP-2190) (April 18, 2006).

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