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Public encouraged to identify endangered historic places

Joanna Tsue, center, at her home in Merrick

Joanna Tsue, center, at her home in Merrick on Sunday, with neighbor Robert Fliegel, and Sarah Kautz, director of Preservation Long Island. Credit: Debbie Egan-Chin

Long Islanders who want to save a piece of history in their neighborhood may be able to get help from a preservation group whose mission is to protect endangered places.

Preservation Long Island is seeking nominations for its 2021 Endangered Historic Places Program, which is open to the public and offers an opportunity for residents to advocate for the preservation of historic facilities in their communities that may have fallen on hard times or are neglected.

The program teaches participants how to use tools such as landmark designation, tax incentives, and public outreach to achieve their preservation goals.

"We provide support and assistance to the people on the ground who live in the community and that includes education about local ordinances, finding out about zoning and whether or not they have something that would help protect a historic building, and other resources," preservation director Sarah Kautz said.

Preservation Long Island is a regional preservation advocacy nonprofit based in Cold Spring Harbor.

Since the Endangered Historic Places Program started in 2010 it has helped 27 historic structures in both Nassau and Suffolk counties. The program, which is organized every other year, does not provide funding for projects on the list but can offer help in finding resources such as grants.

Kautz said the nominated sites should fulfill three eligibility criteria: It must be historically, culturally, or architecturally significant and may encompass individual buildings, landscapes, structures, or any grouping thereof; the existence and/or integrity of the site must be seriously threatened from such things as planned demolition, a pattern of neglect or exposure that will inevitably lead to loss; and that being on the preservation list will have a positive impact on efforts to protect the nominated site.

Joanna Tsue is a resident of Merrick Gables, an architecturally and historically significant 1920s planned community in Nassau County that was selected for the 2019 list. She said participation in the program was key in getting information that hopefully will help stem the changes to the neighborhood’s appearance caused by the demolition of original homes being replaced by bigger homes that are out of character for the area.

"We partnered with Sarah and found out these homes are part of the National Historic Register, which no one knew," said Tsue, who also is co-president of the community’s civic association.

Robert Fliegel is leading the civic association’s efforts to get as many of the remaining estimated 185 homes local landmark status, which would preclude some future changes to the homes.

"We have federal programs, state programs, county," Fliegel said. "But it’s so complex; an organization like Preservation Long Island can direct and explain to you how and what to do."

Kautz said nominating a project brings communities together around a common goal.

"It’s going to help give you the tools you and your neighbors need to stand up for an important place or building in your community that you see has needs and make a positive change," she said.

How to apply

Nominations to the Endangered Historic Places Program 2021 should be submitted online at preservationlongisland.org. Nominations filed after Dec. 18 will not be accepted.

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