Aby Rosen's statue leads Old Westbury to introduce law limiting height

The statue titled The statue titled "The Virgin Mother" is at the Conger Goodyear House. Photo Credit: News 12

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Old Westbury Village officials unanimously voted Monday night to hold a public hearing next month on a proposed law restricting accessory structures, including statues, to a 25-foot height limit.

The hearing, to be held June 16, would consider a law to align limits of structures with those of accessory buildings.

The proposed law takes aim at a 33-foot graphic sculpture of a nude, pregnant woman installed by a real estate mogul on his historic estate. Aby Rosen's statue, "The Virgin Mother," by British artist Damien Hirst, displays the insides of nearly half of the woman's body, with her skull, tissue and part of the fetus exposed, much of it painted red.

Neighbors complained, and the statue has been covered in netting while Rosen seeks approvals from the village Building Department and Architectural Review Board. An attorney for Rosen has said he is willing to work with the village to bring the statue into compliance with local laws.

Mayor Fred Carillo has said the controversy prompted a review of the code, which limits accessory buildings such as cabanas or sheds -- but not statues -- to 25 feet in height.

"We certainly wouldn't want a structure to be higher than a building," Carillo said Monday night, noting the law targets the "monstrous statue."

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Rosen has submitted plans to the building department and has "agreed to turn" the statue so "the vivid part faces Mr. Rosen," Carillo said. The village planning board will hear the application June 2, followed by the architectural board.

Some village residences must comply with a 15-foot restriction, the law notes.

Neighboring East Hills does not regulate statues. Sands Point has no provision regulating sculptures, officials said. North Hempstead limits them to no more than 15 feet in height in rear yards for areas not governed by separate village restrictions.

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Old Westbury officials also have questioned the location of Rosen's sculpture on the A. Conger Goodyear House, a 5.5-acre estate built in 1938 and listed in 2003 on the National Register of Historic Places. Carillo said the statue is within a conservation easement, subject to strict rules and prohibitions on additions such as plantings or structures.

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