A debate has erupted over a proposal to grant historical landmark status to the Bellmore house of the late Stan Stevens, a celebrated tugboat captain.
At yesterday's Hempstead Town board hearing, 11 people testified in favor and 13 in opposition to the proposal to preserve the 21/2-floor house at 2396 Bellmore Ave. The home has been vacant since Stevens' daughter and last relative, Joan Stevens, 75, died in 2009.
A group in Bellmore launched a campaign in October 2010 to preserve the home, and the town's Landmark Preservation Commission approved the landmark recommendation in February for consideration by the town board, which reserved decision.
The 20-x-40-foot bungalow was built in 1923 by Charles Stevens, who ran a ferry service in the early 1900s between Bellmore and High Hill Beach, now part of Jones Beach State Park, preservationists said.
Stevens passed the house on to his son Stan, Joan's father, who built his own tugboat business and helped build the Wantagh Parkway to Jones Beach, preservationists said.
"I have seen beautiful houses destroyed," said Susan Salem, a lifelong Bellmore resident, who testified in favor of granting the landmark status and turning the property into a community education center. "There are very few properties in Bellmore that have such a beautiful history."
Linda A. Prizer, an attorney representing the Stevens estate, said during the hearing that Joan Stevens had requested that funds from the estate, including the sale of the home, be distributed among five of her friends and two animal rescue groups, in Bellmore and Freeport.
"She did not want the house to be [a] landmark," Prizer said. "Otherwise, she would have done it herself . . ."
David Weiss, chair of the town's appeals board and the attorney and trustee for the Stevens estate, said after the hearing that a potential buyer has offered to purchase the property, demolish the home and build two houses there.
"The sale is pending, subject to demolition of the home," said Weiss, adding preservationists have not offered to buy the property.
Christine Keller of Bellmore, who is leading the preservation effort, said a landmark status would not prevent a sale of the home. "If we buy the house, they are going to get the money, whether it is landmark or not."