A handful of local residents and preservationists shared their disappointment over the demolition of Plandome Manor’s iconic Richardson House Aug. 4.
What emerged from the comments was a lost opportunity to save a historic structure because of bitter divisions roiling the community, poor communication and a lack of statesmanship on the part of village officials despite rather strong support for rescuing the building.
The house, constructed nearly 300 years ago, was torn down following failed efforts from the village to turn the building into its new village hall. A referendum that would have allowed the village to utilize the home for a new village hall and called for the issuance of a $600,000 bond to finance the acquisition and relocation was defeated in April by a vote of 119-87.
This past spring the house was a point of controversy throughout Plandome Manor, with village officials pushing for the house to be used as a new village hall, much to the ire of some Circle Drive residents.
A committee comprised of Andrew Cronson, Mallory Rutigliano, J. Thomas Lang and Gary Lewandowski said in a letter to Blank Slate Media that the Circle Drive residents who were opposed to the village hall transformation did not push to find a resolution to preserve the building.
“This faction had no reason to come to the table as they were not interested in any form of compromise, no matter the circumstances or financial situation,” the letter said. “They made no effort even once to reach out or work with our committee and instead directed all of their energy to spread disinformation, lies, and fear to undermine a fair vote.”
Village officials planned on moving the house roughly 1,000 feet down the road from 149 Circle Drive to a vacant village-owned parcel north of Stonytown Road. Previous meetings were flooded with residential concerns and claims that environmental impact and drainage studies were not conducted.
Plandome Manor residents Kate Dunn and Sarah Meriggi, in a letter to Blank Slate Media on behalf of Circle Drive residents earlier this year, said a traffic study, conducted by VHB Engineering, did not properly compare the current traffic flow with the estimated flow if the village hall was relocated.
Meriggi, in a statement to Blank Slate Media, said the village did not sufficiently address residents’ concerns and that none relished seeing the structure torn down.
“The opportunity to unite rather than divide a community was irretrievably lost through poor communication, half-truths and misinformation,” Meriggi said. “The regrettable acrimonious publicity could have been avoided through alternatives, compromises and statesman leadership. Residents’ concerns were overlooked under the guise of preserving a home that had been available for years.“
Meriggi said the house had been previously gutted and the remaining authentic pieces of furniture or decor from the 1700s had been removed and re-purposed prior to its demolition.
The letter said the demolition of a longstanding structure reinforces the need for Manhasset to create a historical society. The preservationists said not a single donation of any amount was received for the relocation of the building despite “months of exhaustive outreach and appeals for funding to residents of both Manhasset and Port Washington.”
“The residents of Plandome Manor need to take heed that only a handful of historic sites remain and once they are gone, there is no turning back the clock,” the letter said. “Do not waste any future opportunity to save what little is left. If not for ourselves, then for our children. Preservation of old gives us our history and burnishes our knowledge of the past, and our excitement for the present and future.”
The house was built in 1730 in Massachusetts. In 1923, eight years before Plandome Manor was incorporated, resident George Richardson had the house dismantled, moved to its present site and rebuilt. The house was approximately 2,700 square feet and had an attached garage.
According to the real estate website Trulia.com, the Richardson House was sold on Dec. 20, 2021, for $1.3 million after being on the market for more than two years. The buyer was a developer who has filed for a demolition permit and a building permit for a new house.
Village Mayor Barbara Donno and other members of the village’s Board of Trustees expressed their support for the proposition but hoped that despite the referendum being defeated, there were other ways to preserve the longstanding home.
“The village board has always based their decisions on what they felt was in the best interest for the whole village and its residents and will continue to do so,” Donno said in a statement following the vote in April. “This vote does not end our pursuit of finding adequate space within the Village and moving our village hall back to Plandome Manor where it belongs. We will continue to discuss and evaluate all other possible options.”
Village officials did not immediately respond to requests to comment on the matter further.