The 1920s-era Bellmore house of the late tugboat captain Stan Stevens that preservationists and some residents had tried to have landmarked was demolished last week.
The Hempstead Town Board held a hearing last September about granting landmark status to the site, but denied the request at a Dec. 11 board meeting. The decision surprised the advocates, who say they only found out about the decision after the house was demolished.
"There are many in the community disheartened and outraged," said Christine Keller of Bellmore, who was leading the preservation effort. "I am still in disbelief . . . In the end, this historic home is gone."
A group of historians and residents launched a campaign in October 2010 to preserve the 21/2-floor house at 2396 Bellmore Ave. The town's Landmark Preservation Commission had approved the landmark recommendation in February 2012 for consideration by the town board.
"There was no 'decision explanation,' " town spokesman Michael Deery said in a statement. "It is not the practice of our town board."
The 20-by-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. Stevens passed the house on to his son Stan, who had his own tugboat business and helped build the Wantagh Parkway to Jones Beach. The home had been vacant since Stan Stevens' daughter and last relative, Joan Stevens, died in 2009 at age 75.
"The demolition points to the lack of commitment by the town in preserving its historic residences," said Nancy Solomon, executive director of Long Island Traditions, who supported turning the property into a community education center. "There are no landmarks in the Town of Hempstead that recognize the heritage of working fishermen and baymen, like Stan Stevens, and countless others who settled Long Island."
David Weiss, the attorney and trustee for the Stevens estate, said Joan Stevens had requested that funds from the estate, including the sale of the five-room bungalow, be distributed among five friends and two animal rescue groups in Bellmore and Freeport.
The 18,750-square-feet property was sold for $250,000 on Jan. 23. Demolition began that day.
"The sale really culminates a long process of trying to carry out the wishes of the woman who lived in the house," said Weiss, who is also chairman of the town's appeals board. "It is a shame that it became a controversy."
Ricky Valenti, owner of Lynbrook-based OTG Realty, said he purchased the property to build two houses there.
Summonses were issued to Valenti on Jan. 23 and to Amityville-based contractor Bilotta Construction Associates on Jan. 24 for "construction without a permit" for the demolition of the structure, Deery said. Penalties include a fine up to $1,000 and/or imprisonment for up to 15 days.
An office manager at Bilotta said the contractor has a permit, but that the summons was issued because the permit was not shown on the site. She said the sign was put up the day after the summons was issued.