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Will this Wallabout landmark be saved?

Eye On Real Estate: The city put a plywood fence around 69 Vanderbilt Ave. What's next?

September 24, 2014 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Behind this fence stands 1850s-vintage 69 Vanderbilt Ave., which is located in the Wallabout Historic District.
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New Yorkers who love wooden houses are obsessed with 69 Vanderbilt Ave. — and with good reason.

The diminutive 1850s-vintage Greek Revival Wallabout home has been a desperately distressed mess for years.

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And now, there’s word that the city Buildings Department is considering whether to demolish the historic house.

It is located in the city-designated Wallabout Historic District. And the city Landmarks Preservation Commission is advocating for its repair.

But “we understand it’s a possibility it could be torn down,” said Chad Purkey, director of planning and economic development at the Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership.

“It’s a fluid situation. It’s touch-and-go,” said Purkey.

The historic district designated by the city is just one block long, so if the house were to be demolished, its loss would be strongly felt, he said.

“It’s the gateway to the historic district, right on high-traffic Park Avenue,” he added. “It would be great for that corner to showcase the history of the district.”

Five years ago, Myrtle Avenue Brooklyn Partnership officials met with 69 Vanderbilt’s owner, Louis Somma, to talk about the house, but “he wasn’t interested in working with us,” Purkey said.

In 2009,  the city Buildings Department issued a “full vacate” order for the property, which says there was “main girder failure [at] cellar level” and “deflection throughout entire flooring system.”

In August, the city Department of Housing Preservation and Development obtained a Buildings Department permit to build a plywood fence around the house.

The fence is up now, obscuring from the view of passersby all but the second story of the house, with its boarded-up windows and beat-up-looking façade.

In early 2013, the city received a ruling in its favor in a “demolition by neglect” lawsuit it had pursued against Somma in Kings County Supreme Court.

Usually this makes the property owner legally responsible for paying for repairs to prevent the building from falling down due to his neglect.

A tip of the hat to The Wooden House Project website, which has written eloquently about 69 Vanderbilt.

Reps for the Landmarks Preservation Commission and the Buildings Department did not respond in time for deadline.

There’s talk in the neighborhood that at one point, the owner of 69 Vanderbilt had tried to sell the house for $3 million. (That’s a big number for a Wallabout house, however historic.)

He doesn’t live in the area anymore, we’ve been told.


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