Monday, Jan 30th

Developer Seeks Subdivision of Historic Property on Mamaroneck Road

40MamaroneckRoadIt seems a vote by the Committee for Historic Preservation to save a historic home is not enough to ensure that it remains in place.

Builders and homeowners who are unhappy with the committee’s decision have many avenues to appeal – including a hearing of the Scarsdale Board Trustees and challenges in New York State courts.

Sometimes, instead of appealing to overturn the decision to preserve the house, they move to dissemble and subdivide the property, leaving the house intact, but robbed of the setting that made it worthy of preservation.

That’s just what one developer is attempting at 40 Mamaroneck Road.

In April 2021, the Committee denied an application to demolish the 7,000 square foot 1916 Colonial Revival home, accessory buildings and pool. The committee considered both the house and its site at the end of a long driveway on a 2.83 acre lot on a prominent street. Furthermore, board member Jonathan Lerner pointed out that the grounds include fruit trees and a rare 150 year old Chestnut tree.

The committee voted in favor of preserving it, finding it a, “strong example of a large home on a large property for wealthy merchants leaving the city for suburban life,” and said, “this is a home that contributes to the broad patterns of history.”

However, just a few months later, developer Shlomo Freidfertig filed an application to take down the accessory buildings and a small addition to the house to clear the way for a subdivision of the property. He simultaneously filed an application with the Planning Board to subdivide the property, but noted on his application that there would be “no new house.”

At the January 18, 2022 meeting of the Committee for Historic Preservation Freidfertig shared his intention to build a second house on the subdivided property, but did not show a plan of where it would be sited, and how it would affect the overall setting.

Making a case to demolish the accessory buildings that stand in the way of the subdivision, Freidfertig said he was applying to take down the caretaker’s house, the garage and the shed and claimed, “I am here to make it work for myself, the Village and the property.”

When asked about the application to subdivide the property Freidfertig said it was “adjourned,” though it appears on the agenda for the January 26 meeting of the Planning Board.

Committee Chair Adam Lindenbaum said, “We need to understand what is sought to being done with the land and the building. The subdivision application was not submitted to us.”Subdivision40MamaroneckIn order to subdivide the property, the developer wants to demolish the accessory buildings and an addition on the right side of the house.

The developer replied, “The existing house would be on an acre and a half and the new house would be on a little less.”

Lindenbaum said that just before the meeting a neighbor at 20 Mamaroneck Road, Carol L Wolchek, submitted a letter reviewing an agreement between her parents and the current owners of 40 Mamaroneck Road. The two had purchased the property at 26 Mamaroneck Road that lies between them and divided it to ensure that another house was not built there around 1963.

According to a letter from Carol L. Wolchok that was made public following the meeting, “20 Mamaroneck Road and 40 Mamaroneck Road have been neighbors for over 100 years, and for almost sixty of those years the Wolchok and Rosenthal families have been neighbors. In fact, shortly after my parents purchased 20 Mamaroneck Road, my father approached the Rosenthals (the current owners of 40 Mamaroneck Road) about buying together the plot between their properties. That plot, identified as Plot 26 in Attachment A, was 1.133 acres and had been part of the impressive 20 Mamaroneck Rd estate but was not included in the parcel with the house purchased by parents in 1963.”

“The Wolchoks and the Rosenthals bought and divided Plot 26 soon thereafter: the Rosenthals acquired the eastern portion (outlined in bold in Attachment B) and the Wolchoks acquired the western portion. The intention was that the two families enjoy larger properties and that no new owner would purchase the land between the two homes to construct a third house. We believe this is what Mr. Freidfertig and Mr. Rosenthal intend to do.”

In comments from the committee, Lauren Bender said, “This house is a signifier of the broad patterns of Scarsdale development. I remember talking about the accessory structures. We have to look at where the house is situated – it is on one of the grand thoroughfares in town. How will this subdivision affect saving this significant home?”

Kevin Reed said, “The basis of our decision to refuse the right to take down the house included its setting and the size of the lot. How does that affect the accessory structures? They appear to have no historical value but they are part of the whole. Facilitating the subdivision of the lot is contrary to the spirit of the original denial.”

Jonathan Lerner said, “The home was published in a book in the late 1930’s. It was the home of Joseph Ford, a prominent figure in Scarsdale history. I don’t want to play this game where we start chipping at the main building.” He later added, “You have a caretakers house, a chauffeur … this is more than just a garage we are tearing down.”

Wendy Goldstein said, “It’s a philosophical issue…. the buildings versus the whole site.”

Mark Behr said, “It’s a tough one. Some of the houses we voted to preserve were subdivided and that diminished the home we sought to preserve. Do we accept this compromise where we keep this structure and diminish the property? I am not sure if trying to preserve the accessory structures on the property has merit.” He later said, “Given our original denial that was based on the entire property I want to see what is being proposed. I want to see the site plan…. I think we see the errors that happen when we decide in a vacuum.”

Neighbor Carol Wolchek called in and said, “Part of 40 Mamaroneck Road includes a divided lot, 26 Mamaroneck Road, that the current owners’ family and my family bought together so both could grow into those spaces. I was a kid at the time. My father since died. Plot 26 Mamaroneck Road – is a part of 20 and 40 – and both families did not want a house there and split that. This has been very confusing to follow. I learned tonight that the subdivision proposal says “no new home proposed.”

The committee voted to adjourn the decision. Chair Adam Lindenbaum asked for time to review Wolchek’s letter and the subdivision plan, to confer with the Village Attorney and query Professor Andrew Dolkart.

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