An iconic Freeport office building that drew comparisons to Manhattan's famed Flatiron building has been demolished to make way for a car dealership.
Work crews were cleaning up debris Thursday at the site near the Freeport train station where the six-story Plaza West building had stood for 90 years. A demolition team began tearing down the Art Deco structure last Friday, officials said.
Residents and preservationists had tried unsuccessfully to save the former Meadowbrook Bank building, arguing it was a Freeport landmark.
“It’s a really unfortunate loss," Sarah Kautz, preservation director of Cold Spring Harbor-based nonprofit Preservation Long Island, said in an interview. "It’s a lost opportunity to rehabilitate a really special landmark on Long Island, especially on the South Shore.”
The Freeport Zoning Board of Appeals last spring approved plans to sell the village-owned property to Atlantic Auto Group for $6.3 million and grant land use and parking variances for a planned 40,000-square-foot Lexus dealership.
Freeport officials and an attorney for Atlantic Auto Mall could not be reached Thursday for comment.
In its heyday, the structure was the tallest in Nassau and Suffolk counties and symbolized plans to develop Long Island as a commercial hub, Kautz said. The granite, limestone and brick building included Mayan reliefs and a lobby featuring Caen marble and bronze, she said.
During World War II, an observation deck was erected on the bank's roof to track enemy aircraft, according to the Preservation Long Island website.
Long Island Rail Road passengers could easily view the edifice, squeezed into a triangle-shaped intersection on West Sunrise Highway, as they traveled between Jamaica and Babylon.
The building was eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, but local officials didn't show much interest, Kautz said.
“It kind of has this look, this wedge-shaped look of the Flatiron buiding in New York City,” she said. “It would have been great to rehabilitate this building and bring it back to what it used to be.”