Any major work, inside or out, must not only receive permits from New York City but also the permission of the seller: the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Despite New York’s rich history, or perhaps because of it and the myriad preservation movements it spawned, the Ferrigno House is the first property in the five boroughs to come under the aegis of the trust.
The Ferrignos moved into the home, at 33-37 163rd Street, on the day they were married in 1955, and less than a decade later founded the Broadway-Flushing Homeowners Association. It was created to protect the neighborhood’s character on the eve of the World’s Fair, when that familiar New York anxiety set in: a tourist invasion. Even today, homes must follow the Rickert-Finlay covenants, laid down by the original developer, that limits what can be done to a property, including prohibitions on fences and flat roofs.
The Ferrignos doted on the neighbors, and really their homes, as if they were the children they never had. “Nick was the nicest guy, but he had no reservations about approaching someone in their yard and telling them the dos and don’ts of the covenant,” said Robert Hanophy Jr., the current president of the homeowners association who lives two doors down.
Mr. Ferrigno died five years ago, and his wife three years later. Before they died, they got Broadway-Flushing added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2006, which provides recognition but not protection for the area. With no one to inherit the house, and more crucially to protect it, the couple donated it to the trust in 2007. They were especially worried about it being torn down for a modern McMansion, an increasingly common problem in the neighborhood.
“They wanted to lead by example,” Sandi Viviani, a friend and past president of the homeowners association, said.
The Ferrigno House came on the market in March for $849,000 with Amorelli Realty, based in Astoria. That puts it below the neighborhood average of $1.25 million for a single-family house, according to StreetEasy.com. But it could also be a lot to ask for a property with many restrictions on it that simultaneously needs a thorough renovation.