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Preservationists oppose plan to raze historic East Hills home

The owners of this home at 2A Melby

The owners of this home at 2A Melby Lane in East Hills built in 1929 are looking to raze it and subdivide the property. Credit: Uli Seit

East Hills could lose one of its most historic homes if the village planning board approves a subdivision proposal next week, local preservationists said.

Steven and Wendy Shenfeld own the two-story home at 2A Melby Lane. The house, built in 1929, sits on 2.2 acres and originally belonged to the Mackay family. The Shenfelds have filed paperwork with the village to demolish the home, subdivide the parcels into four properties and eventually build four houses.

Nearby residents and historic preservationists don’t want the home destroyed. They said that it is part of village history and that building new homes would bring unwelcome noise and traffic.

“These houses wouldn’t take nine months to build, they take a few years,” said James Tullman, who lives behind the Shenfelds. “And it’s a few years of hearing that noise, so that’s our big concern.”

The Shenfelds, who have owned the home for about 20 years, declined to comment.

The planning board will meet at 8 p.m. June 21 at Village Hall and could decide on the application.

The home has a slate roof, copper gutters and a multicar driveway made of stone slabs. Inside, there’s a circular staircase with carved-wood banisters.

The home once belonged to John Mackay III, whose grandfather John Mackay was an early settler in Roslyn. The Mackays were a civically involved family, said Jay Corn, secretary of the Roslyn Landmark Society.

John Mackay III was one of East Hills’ first village board trustees, and his mother, Katherine Mackay, was the first woman on the Roslyn school board in 1905, Corn said.

“The house is an example of a time that has passed and the family is an American success story,” Corn said. “Go back 100 years ago and it was farms there and large estates. People either lived there or worked on the farm or inside the estates.”

Corn and other preservationists said that because of the family’s legacy in East Hills, the home should not be razed. Officials with the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities agree, and the New York Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Office said the home qualifies for historical landmarking.

But Corn said it is unlikely the home will be landmarked because the process takes months and the planning board will decide soon on the Shenfelds’ application. The Roslyn Landmark Society is instead seeking a buyer for the property, Corn said.

Another way to save the home is to divide the property into two lots, build a smaller home on one and keep 2A Melby Lane, said Howard Kroplick, the Town of North Hempstead’s historian. Kroplick said he hopes the planning board considers that option.

“They can make money off the property and the house gets saved,” he said. “Everyone is happy.”

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