Engineer’s report details damage to Baxter House

Engineer’s report details damage to Baxter House

An engineering firm hired by the Village of Baxter Estates issued a report last week stating that damage to the historic Baxter House included its foundation, roof, chimney, front porch and wood floor framing, and urged immediate renovations to prevent further damage.

“It is important that these recommendations be implemented in a timely manner,” said Dean Koutsoubis, the engineer from Koutsoubis, Alfonso Associates, P.E., P.C. who conducted the report. “Otherwise, the structure will continue to deteriorate over time and the effort to remediate will be greater.” 

Village trustees said last Monday they had met with the home’s owner, Sabrina Wu, and had an informal discussion about the possible demolition and rebuilding of the house as a potential option.

Trustee Chris Ficalora said that after receiving the engineer’s report he and Mayor Nora Haagenson met with Wu and her lawyer on Thursday to further discuss the future of the house.

Ficalora said Wu intends to address the issues with the home,  but has yet to determine if she will renovate the house or knock it down and start from scratch.

“It still has not yet been determined if she will start from scratch or restore the house as further info is needed,” Ficalora said. “We have another meeting with her, the VBE Historic Commission and her architect to finalize which direction makes most sense.”

Village Attorney Chris Prior has said in previous board meetings that the home’s exterior but not it’s interior is landmarked.

“Our village does not have jurisdiction over any components of the interior,” Ficalora said. “In fact, no preservation committee does.” 

Since only the outside of the building is landmarked, Prior said, Wu isn’t responsible for interior repairs

According to Nassau County land records, the house was built in 1790 and its current fair market value is $751,600. Wu purchased the property for $990,000 in 2003.

Residents said at this month’s board meeting that Wu has the house on the market for around $3.5 million.

In the past few months, Wu began renovations on the home’s exterior and covered the roof with a blue tarp and the windows with black bags. 

The engineer’s report said the tarp and bags are covering breaches that are allowing water and animals to get into the house.

 Koutsoubis suggested in the report that the “siding and roofing be repaired and replaced sufficiently to maintain the water tightness of the building.”

A picture attached to the report shows a bird’s nest above a window. 

Another picture shows water damage around another window.

The first floor wood framing, the report said, is sagging in the front room and, if not reinforced or repaired, will fail. 

The floor needs to be opened and the deteriorated framing needs to be removed and replaced, Koutsoubis said.

At the conclusion of the survey, Koutsoubis said the owner should comply with the New York State building code and remediate the parts of the house that are “damaged, deteriorated and unsafe.”

But according to the report, “the structural design is ‘grandfathered’ even though it does not necessarily conform to the current building code; as long as changes aren’t made to the structure.”

The report adds that any renovation or reconfiguration done should be carefully calculated to avoid increasing the loading on the existing stone foundation.

At the end of the report, eight recommendations were made to remedy the house, including replacing the front porch, repairing the wood framing, properly ventilating and dehumidifying the cellar and crawl space and other repairs. 

By Stephen Romano

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