Gutted and sagging, the historic Hollins Farm House in East Islip, once home to a baron of the industrial age, seems destined for an inglorious end.
The house, parts of which date to the 1850s, has been owned since 2010 by Meadow Farm Estates Llc and developer Robert McGrath. A 2001 town covenant has protected the house from bulldozing, but officials said the abandoned home has decayed and become a magnet for mischievous teens.
At Thursday's meeting, the Islip planning board is expected to vote on removing the covenant, which would allow the house to be razed. McGrath would then build four large homes on the site.
"The structure has become so dilapidated and is such a fire hazard that we believe . . . that in the interest of public safety the structure has to come down," Planning Commissioner Dave Genaway said.
But some East Islip residents are furious about what they describe as "demolition by neglect." They say the home should have been protected by the covenant, which would have allowed the developer to build three houses on the five-acre parcel as long as the farm house was restored.
"The original decision was that the Hollins Farm House was a historic piece of property -- and if you would like to purchase this, you need to restore and keep the farm house," said Meredith Maxwell, a member of the East Islip Historical Society.
The 7,000-square-foot house is boarded up and barely standing. Once slated to be moved to one of the lots on the parcel, it rests precariously on steel beams.
Attorney Raymond Giusto said that when his client bought the property, they thought only 600 square feet of the house, deemed the true historic element, had to be preserved.
"There's little of anything of the original structure in there," Giusto said, adding that many historic features had been stripped from the interior.
Maxwell and other residents say Meadow Farm Estates and previous owners let the house fall into disrepair to avoid having to rehabilitate it.
Alexandra Wolfe, preservation services director for the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities, was not surprised. "I think it's unfortunate that there's a feeling that if you're stubborn enough, you get to do what you want."
But Giusto said that when McGrath acquired it, the house had so decayed that it was unsafe to move. "We're saying you should just let us knock this down, and we will do something that's aesthetically pleasing," Giusto said.
The planning board has twice denied applications to lift the covenant. Chairman Joe DeVincent said the house should be demolished -- but the developer should contribute to the historical community.
Giusto said his client agreed to install a plaque on the property and pay about $50,000 to restore the Brookwood Hall mansion in East Islip, a mile away. Genaway said that was one of his conditions for recommending the covenant be removed.
"Can you save everything? No," Maxwell said. "The way you correct this is staying loyal to the historic heritage."