Flower Hill seeks to landmark Elderfields Preserve, county pushes back

Flower Hill seeks to landmark Elderfields Preserve, county pushes back
The Elderfields Preserve is a historic parkland in Flower Hill owned by the county. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)

The Village of Flower Hill is seeking landmark designation for the Elderfields Preserve, but the village is receiving pushback from Nassau County, which owns the property.

The Elderfields Preserve, located in Flower Hill, is a four-acre parkland with a main house that includes the original 17th-century home on the property, one of the oldest structures on Long Island, according to the county parks department.

The county acquired the property in 1996 from Henry de V. Williams. The Art Guild of Port Washington currently occupies a space in the building for art studios, classes and shows.

Flower Hill Mayor Randall Rosenbaum said the village is seeking to designate it as a landmark because the village wants to preserve the historical sites throughout the village.

Rosenbaum said he was inspired to restore the village’s Landmark Commission, which has been idle for about 20 years, by the recent demolition of the Richardson House in Plandome Manor.

The Richardson House, which was located in Massachusetts and relocated to Plandome Manor in the 1920s, was sold for development and demolished in 2022 after years of contested discussion on what to do with the home.

Rosenbaum said he did not want something similar to happen in Flower Hill.

“It is important to consider protecting our heritage before it is too late to do so,” Rosenbaum said in an email to Blank Slate.

Rosenbaum said that landmark designation status prevents the structure from being altered, repaired, moved or demolished. If a building permit is filed for the property, the village would then assess the proposal to ensure no harm would be done to the property.

“The intent of landmark preservation is the preservation, protection, enhancement, perpetuation and use of places, districts, sites, buildings and structures having a special character or special historical, cultural or aesthetic interest or value within the community as an appreciation of heritage and furtherance of education,” Rosenbaum said.

At an April 3 board of trustees meeting, Nassau County Deputy Attorney Anna Gerzon told the board that while the county is not against the village protecting the preserve, the village landmarking a preserve managed by the county sets a bad precedent. This would be the first county property landmarked by a village.

Rosenbaum countered by saying that he sees it as a good initiative that Flower Hill would be the first to landmark a county property. He said during the meeting that he sees it as a positive whereas the county views it as additional work.

If the village designates the Elderfields as a landmark, the management of the preserve will not change and the county will continue to own it.

Rosenbaum said the village’s designation would help the preservation of the property by providing oversight, requiring the village’s approval on changes to the preserve.

“Our intent is to help preserve the building and property for future generations to enjoy,” Rosenbaum said.

The village’s attorney said during the meeting that there are many things the board would like to be preserved, including the park-like atmosphere, the structures and the landscaping. He added the board also wants to consider the use of the preserve and the buildings on the property.

Gerzon told the board that she suggested to the village’s attorney that the county continue to take care of the land and keep it as a preserve rather than the village landmarking it.

In addition, Gerzon said she proposed seven covenant restrictions that would make the deed stronger in preserving the property.

She said the current deed is already very restrictive and the county has been following it completely since 1996. She said she would like to add more restrictions and has not said no to any of the requests proposed by the village thus far.

She said the deed would prevent a future sale of the property. This omits any sort of arrangement that transfers the property in any way, including leasing the property.

“[The covenants] will make the Flower Hill community secure that we will not alter it, we will not take it down, we will only beautify it and we will not ever sell it,” Gerzon said to the board.

Rosenbaum said the community is concerned the preserve will be bought by St. Francis Hospital, but Gerzon said that the county has not been approached by them.

She confirmed that it is a rumor circulating, which is why she suggested a covenant that restricts the sale of the property.

Gerzon said she has started drafting the covenant restrictions and would get them to the village shortly after the holidays. Rosenbaum asked that the final draft of the seven covenant restrictions be offered as a public document for village residents to review prior to the board voting next month.

The county’s parks department did not respond to a request for comment.

The village will be holding a second public hearing for the Elderfields Preserve at their May 1 board of trustees meeting. Rosenbaum said that a vote is dependent on the information and resident feedback they receive prior to the meeting. A vote could be delayed until their June meeting.

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