A Baxter Estates official removed two signs from in front of the historic Baxter House that said “criminal.”
Village Trustee Chris Ficalora on Sunday removed the first sign, which was attached to a temporary fence around the home at 15 Shore Road.
He said he received an email about a second sign Monday morning and removed it shortly after.
“This turned from saving a house to slandering anyone that comes close to it,” Ficalora said. “At the end of the day, there’s still an owner of that house and people seem to forget that it’s private property.”
The historic home has been the subject of a years-long controversy as village officials and residents have condemned the home’s owner, Sabrina Wu, for not preserving it.
It was heavily damaged when a fire ripped through it on Feb. 4.
The first sign was a black bed sheet that had the word “criminal” written on it in white letters.
The second was two poster boards taped together with “criminal” written on it.
“The only criminals are the ones who are illegally trespassing on the property and defacing it,” Wu said in an email. “Criminal complaints are being filed with the police department, and all trespassers will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
Ficalora said there are fingerprints on the tape holding together the second sign.
He said the police “wanted nothing to do with it,” and asked why he removed the sign, saying he should have left it up because it’s private property.
But he said Wu’s lawyer, A. Thomas Levin, thanked him for removing the signs.
Ficalora also criticized the “Save the Baxter House” Facebook group, which has more than 900 members.
He specifically pointed to a recent post by Sam Hall Kaplan, which blasts the village and contains a statement written in Chinese that contains an obscenity and is regarded as one of the strongest insults in the Chinese culture.
“They’re taking such a nasty approach to things,” Ficalora said of the group. “They have not succeeded in any challenges they said they were going to do. All they do is open their mouths and yap.”
A resident recently had interest in buying the house, Ficalora said, but did not want to face the group and the political challenges of being in the newspaper every week.
Last month, village Building Inspector Joseph Saladino told Wu that she must demolish the remaining structure due to “hazardous health and safety issues.”
Many residents have criticized the village for not disciplining Wu for allowing the home, which dates back to the 18th century, to fall into disrepair.
Wu submitted a demolition application in April, but the village deemed it “deficient” because it lacked required documents.
Wu has yet to submit post-demolition plans, Ficalora said.
He said the village believes Wu must rebuild a replica of the home under the landmark law, but Wu’s lawyer, A. Thomas Levin said, “Our position is that the village has no authority to do this.”
Ficalora said the disagreement could be the start of a legal battle.
The exterior of the house was landmarked in 2005, a decision Wu opposed.
Wu purchased the home in 2003 for $990,000.