Board Denies Appeal to Raze Iconic Mid-Century Modern Home on Birchall Drive
- Category: Real Estate
- Published: Wednesday, 29 March 2023 16:17
- Joanne Wallenstein
Ending months of uncertainty, at the final meeting of the current Board of Trustees, the Board announced a decision on an application to tear down an iconic mid-century modern home at 76 Birchall Drive.
In September 2022, the Committee for Historic Preservation had denied the Milstein’s (PIM Holding Company) permission to tear down the house where they planned to subdivide the lot and build two new homes.
A group of neighbors did considerable research on the home and provided the Committee for Historic Preservation with evidence to show that it met the criteria for preservation. They also contacted the architect’s grandson, Bryan Zelnik, who is also an architect. He supplied them with historical documentation of his grandfather’s career and status in the world of architecture.
After the denial from the CHP, the applicants appealed that decision to the entire Board of Trustees who met on February 27, 2023 and March 20, 2023 to consider the appeal.
At their March 28, 2023 meeting, late into the night, Trustee Jeremy Gans read the resolution to deny the appeal, and it passed by a vote of 4-3. The trustees found that the home met two of the criteria for preservation and voted to maintain it, while permitting both the pool house and the pool to be demolished.
The Board disagreed with the applicants hired experts Dr. Emily Cooperman and Serita Paulsen who sought to demonstrate that the architect of the home, Simon B. Zelnik was not a master, despite a lengthy resume of accomplishments, achievements, recognition and publications. Rather the Board recognized Zelnik as a master, “a figure of generally recognized greatness in a field and a known craftsman of consummate skill.”
The Board was also not convinced by the applicants argument that the home was not the work of a master because Zelnik was better known for other kinds of non-residential designs (including the Joyce theater) and found instead, that the house at 76 Birchall Drive was unique and historically significant.
Another argument put forth by the applicant was that renovations to the original home had cause it to lose its integrity. The Board found that the home remained in its original setting and the renovations were done sympathetically to match the existing home.
Cooperman, who has been hired repeatedly by applicants wishing to tear down Scarsdale homes, used similar arguments in a case about 11 Dolma Road. That case remains tied up in state court.
The Board of Trustees concluded that the home possesses distinctive characteristics of the mind-century modern style and retained the majority of its features and integrity and voted to deny the appeal. Trustees in support of the resolution to save the house were Brew, Gans, Mazer and Veron with Whitestone voting against it, and Ahuja and Lewis abstaining as they did not attend the hearing. The two abstentions counted as NO votes.
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