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Brookhaven delays razing ‘decrepit’ Eastport house amid dispute

Brookhaven Town wants to demolish this historic Montauk

Brookhaven Town wants to demolish this historic Montauk Highway house in Eastport because it is abandoned and in disrepair. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Brookhaven Town officials say a 19th century Eastport house is a “decrepit eyesore” and must be demolished — but some civic activists say the vacant, wood frame home on Montauk Highway is historic and should be preserved.

For now, at least, the two-story abode has been spared after Brookhaven officials gave civic leaders two months to negotiate with the home’s owner, a Hauppauge developer.

The Town Board had been poised Thursday to vote to raze the house next month, after engineers found it had numerous problems — including insulation removed from walls, loose foundation bricks, animal dung, repeated violations of town building codes and three years of unpaid taxes.

Suffolk County property records show the house is owned by Eastport Commons. Company officials could not be reached for comment.

Councilman Dan Panico, who represents Eastport hamlet, called the house a “decrepit eyesore,” adding Eastport Commons plans to demolish the house. Panico said in an interview the town has approved the company’s plan to build an office, a bank and a pharmacy on the property.

MaryAnn Johnston, president of Affiliated Brookhaven Civic Organizations, disputed the town’s assessment, saying the home had only “cosmetic” damage. She said she wanted to form a nonprofit that would restore the home and move it to a new location.

“I’m doing my best to save this house,” she told board members. “We have to salvage one historic house after another.”

She said the house was built in 1872 and had been owned by the Hawkins family, among Eastport’s earliest settlers.

Town officials cast doubt on Johnston’s proposal, saying the cost of buying and rehabilitating the structure would be daunting.

“You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Councilman Kevin LaValle said.

Brookhaven Supervisor Edward P. Romaine told Johnston he would delay tearing down the house until January, to give her time to negotiate with the property owner.

“I wish you good luck and godspeed,” Romaine said.

Jim Gleason, an East Moriches civic leader, said in an interview the house could be moved to another property, restored and used by local community groups.

“It troubles me a lot that the town has allowed the house to get to this level of disrepair,” Gleason said. “I can’t see why they wouldn’t be willing to have someone remove the house from the property.”

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