Debate over monument to Lindbergh flight

The monument to Charles Lindbergh's flight from Roosevelt The monument to Charles Lindbergh's flight from Roosevelt Field is located at the spot from which Lindbergh started his trans-Atlantic flight in 1927, which is now situated next to a garage at the Source mall in Garden City. Photo Credit: Julia Gaines

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Preservationists are at odds over how to save a monument that denotes where Charles Lindbergh began the world's first nonstop solo trans-Atlantic flight -- and whether the marker should remain at the site of Lindbergh's departure.

The stone monument is located on the site of the runway in East Garden City where the Spirit of St. Louis left for Paris in 1927.

That spot is on the property of the financially troubled Source mall, and historical preservationists have called for local and federal authorities to ensure that the monument survives if the mall does not.

Hempstead Town's landmarks and preservation commission is scheduled to vote Tuesday on whether to grant the monument local landmark protective status.

But the Association for a Better Long Island has proposed purchasing the monument, removing it from the mall and moving it to the nearby Cradle of Aviation Museum.

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ABLI's proposal has driven a wedge between different factions that want to preserve the monument.

Adam Sackowitz, a Hofstra University student and history buff who has campaigned for the monument to become a historic landmark, said moving it would compromise its integrity.

"It's kind of like we're at the 1-yard line and they just snatched the ball," Sackowitz said.

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Louis Fortunoff, a member ABLI's board of directors, is entitled to move the monument because it is the property of his family, said Gary Lewi, a spokesman for ABLI. Fortunoff's father, Alan, built the monument 15 years ago.

But, Lewi added, ABLI is not attempting an end-run around Sackowitz's effort.

"We would support any mechanism at all by which that monument gets preserved," Lewi said.

Joshua Stoff, curator of the Cradle of Aviation Museum, said: "If it has to go, we'd certainly take it." However, he added the stone would be better suited for the takeoff site.

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Hempstead Supervisor Kate Murray issued a statement, saying, "It is imperative to move ahead with landmarking at the town level."

Lenders took ownership of the Source mall, in Westbury, after a failed foreclosure auction in August. An attorney for the mall's bondholders has said they will eventually sell it.

Hempstead's landmarks commission meets Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in Old Town Hall, 350 Front St. in Hempstead. The meeting is open to the public.

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