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Imperiled home may have historical value

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

A Babylon Village meeting this week to save an 18th century home from a developer's wrecking ball ended with the fate of the house still uncertain.

The hours-long discussion attended by about 50 people Tuesday night touched on property rights, civic responsibility, as well as a new claim about the home's historical value that may further complicate matters. Neighbors say an early occupant of 527 Deer Park Ave. fought for George Washington.

Documents in the village library identify a David Smith as a one-time resident of the home, and a 1911 village history describes a David Smith as a "Revolutionary hero" but Smith's identity could not be independently verified.

A historic resources survey commissioned by New York in 1980 does, however, list the property as the "David Smith homestead" and describes it as "very important."

Earlier this year members of the Ognibene family, who own several area businesses, announced plans to demolish the home and build three Victorian-style houses in its place. The developer has described the house as being in serious disrepair.

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

The village approved the subdivision.

Stanis Beck, who helped organize the meeting and researched the home's origin, said the historical claims "may mean it qualifies for historic landmark status." Demolishing such a landmark "would be a travesty," she said.

At times, the unofficial meeting and even the board meeting that followed resembled a brainstorming session, with ideas floated on buying the house and moving it or impeding development under state regulations.

Other ideas included a moratorium on demolition of 100-year-old homes and creation of a committee with historical oversight responsibilities.

Mayor Ralph Scordino agreed to look into both.

In the past, officials have expressed little enthusiasm for historical protection legislation that they described as costly and difficult to enact.

Stephen and Chase Ognibene, the father-son developers, attended Tuesday night's meeting but did not speak and declined an interview. Stephen Ognibene did not immediately return a phone call Wednesday.

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