Friday, September 25, 2009
Civic tells LPC not to landmark Vanderbilt mansion
From the SI Advance:
Preservationists want to save the nearly century-old Swedish Home for Aged in Sunnyside, a former residence for the elderly that closed suddenly last year, leaving the hilltop property and a Vanderbilt mansion at its heart in limbo.
But a developer is seeking permits to demolish a portion of the former Swedish Home, including the original 1859 Vanderbilt building, to make way for what he says will be a new nursing facility, with 81 beds.
And builder Salvatore Calcagno’s proposal is what the local civic association, which first supported landmarking the Swedish Home, now says it backs.
“I don’t care about preservationists,” Calcagno said earlier today in a phone interview from Italy, where he was vacationing with friends. “I’m just looking to help 81 families find the best care in any nursing home.”
At the last minute this week, the Landmarks Preservation Commission put off a scheduled vote to calendar the Bristol Avenue building for review. Landmarks staff said they did so at the request of City Councilman Kenneth McMahon (D-North Shore).
“I will support the landmarking of a historically and architecturally significant building, even over the objections of the owner, if the surrounding community supports landmarking. But we don’t have that here,” Mitchell said.
He pointed to a letter that the Clove Lakes Civic Association sent this week to the Landmarks Commission chair.
In it, civic association president Mary Ann McGowan said the building is in serious disrepair and the community now believes landmarking and preserving the home would hurt the community more than help.
She said that after meeting with the developer and discussing plans for the property, the association believes landmarking would prevent “preservation of the park-like landscaping and development of a modern assisted living establishment.”
Members of the Preservation League of Staten Island say the original mansion, built for the daughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, should be preserved and is the only Vanderbilt home still standing in a borough where the famous family got its start building a fortune in railroad and shipping during the 19th century.
“This is a tangible connection,” said John Kilcullen, a member of the Preservation League, who believes the home could be renovated and reused as part of any new development at the site.
The home closed in February 2008 and did not have any violations from the Department of Health, which certainly would not allow a nursing home to operate in a facility that was falling apart. How did it fall into "serious disrepair" in such a short period of time? Or did it?