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A. Thomas Levin Mentioned in The Island Now, "Village Discusses Demolition, Rebuilding of Baxter House "

Sep 12, 2016Local Government and Land Use

Baxter Estates trustees said on Thursday that the owner of the Baxter House had withdrawn her application to subdivide the property, leaving the future of the historic structure up in the air.

Following a walkthrough of the property, which is located at 15 Shore Road, trustees said they informally discussed possible solutions with the property’s owner, Sabrina Wu, including the demolition and rebuilding of the house.

“We presented it as a potential option, but we’ll wait to get the engineer’s report back,” Trustee Chris Ficalora said. “If they would have an architect measure everything as finished and take samples of the things on the exterior of the house, one of the options we talked about was letting her tear down and build an exact replica.”

An engineer provided a structural condition survey of the home, which is landmarked by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and the board is currently awaiting the report so it can proceed, Village Attorney Chris Prior said.

At the meeting, it was said multiple times that the house is listed for $3.5 million.

The house’s fair market value, according to Nassau County records is $751,600, and Wu purchased the property for $990,000 in 2003.

If it were agreed to tear down and rebuild, Wu would be required only to replicate the exterior of the house, because the interior isn’t landmarked, Prior said.

In response to the board’s informal proposal, residents raised concerns about whether Wu would be able to pay for the rebuilding.

According to one resident, Wu rented the property to make payments on the house, so he asked how she could afford it.

Efforts to reach Wu and her attorney were unavailing.

Prior said that before any construction begins, Wu would be required to sign a bond and provide up front payments to legally prevent her from not rebuilding the house.

“We know she doesn’t want to spend any money, and we all know she’ll do the cheapest way it can go,” Ficalora said.

The Baxter House was built in 1673 by John Betts and Robert Hutchings, and was purchased by Oliver Baxter in either 1741 or 1743, according to the village’s website.

One meeting attendee, who doesn’t live in Baxter Estates but owns and works on historic houses, said that it’s a shame that knocking down the house is being considered. She added that she was recently inside the house and said that it’s old and obviously needs repairs, but it’s not unsalvageable.

“What happens to some of the beautiful interior like the winding staircases,” she said. “I came to speak for the house. I think it’s a shame and that it’s really sad you’re considering tearing it down.”

Ficalora said that from his observation the house could be inhabitable if minor repairs were made to the interior.

Trustees said trust has been lost between the board and Wu, but they hoped to still reach an agreement.

But, they said, for that to happen they would need to review the engineer’s report.

Trustees and residents said there are black garbage bags over the house’s windows.

Ficalora said Wu replaced the original windows with “cheap vinyl windows” that are against the code.

“We’re dealing with a very difficult owner,” Mayor Nora Haagenson said. “But we’re trying to work through a legal process and that’s where we are. It’s frustrating, and as frustrating as it is for you, it’s frustrating for us, too.”

In April, Wu’s lawyer, Thomas Levin, said that Wu was planning to build a second property and sell the smaller lot to obtain funds to invest in the Baxter House.