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Historical Babylon house to be demolished

House said to date back to 1790's has

House said to date back to 1790's has been bought by a developer who wants to demolish it and turn it into modern housing. (Aug. 14, 2012) Credit: Newsday/Alejandra Villa

The white Colonial at the southeast corner of Deer Park and Ketewamoke avenues is said to be one of Babylon Village's oldest, erected, according to some more than a century before the village was incorporated in 1893.

It might not stand much longer.

Members of the Ognibene family, who own a beauty salon in the village and pizza parlor nearby, have bought the house and plan to demolish it within a year to make way for three new homes.

While several members of the village historical society said the house appeared not to have played a great role in Babylon's civic history, some neighbors criticized the project as a misstep in a village whose image is built on landmarks such as the Conklin House, the restored home of one of the area's early settlers.

"It breaks my heart to see the old house come down," said Legis. Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), who lives nearby. Much of the village's appeal to visitors -- and potential home buyers -- is "built around our historic attributes," he said. "To lose a house that's so visible is sad."

The local blog AroundBabylon had 64 comments on the planned development this week, many of them mournful. The posts attracted several generations of the home's former residents.

Charlie Ross, 72, a retired teacher who now lives in West Islip, said he'd grown up in the home and recalled fireplaces in the kitchen, a dining room and living room, a carriage house where his family stored wood, and a working pump out back they used to draw well water.

Of the impending demolition, he said, "I'm disappointed it's going to happen but I can't fault the person who bought it. I bear no ill will toward him."

The village has approved subdivision of the property, but no building or demolition permits have been applied for at 527 Deer Park Ave., a property that covers less than an acre.

The real estate site reported the property's sale in June for $450,000. The new houses will sit on a fifth to a quarter of an acre each, according to a website for the project, with prices starting at $639,000.

Chase Ognibene, who runs his family's salon and is working on the project, said prospective buyers have called.

No residents have spoken against the project in village board meetings in the last year, and Mayor Ralph Scordino said nothing in the village code prevents the project from moving ahead.

Ognibene said his family's project would add more to the village than it would subtract. "The house is falling down," he said. "If you look around, there's a whole side of it that's sinking into the ground."

His family will employ local tradesmen to do the building, he said, and the new houses will exude "historical, old features and charm," he said. "We're not looking to build big monster skyscrapers."

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