Sunday, Apr 14th

Neighbors' Pleas Save 27 Woods Lane from Demolition

27WoodsA group of determined residents and a former Scarsdale Village Trustee swayed the Committee for Historic Preservation to deny an application to tear down a treasured home in “The Woods,” in Scarsdale at a hearing on October 17, 2023.

Though these meetings are usually poorly attended, approximately 50 neighbors turned out to speak in support of preservation of the house and their neighborhood which they called, “special, unique and historic.”

The application to raze 27 Woods Lane had been held over from a meeting on September 19, 2023 at which neighbor Jim Detmer and former trustee Jonathan Lewis urged the committee to deny the applicants.

In the intervening weeks, the committee asked Architectural Historian Andrew Dolkart for an opinion on the house which you can read here:

In his letter he reviewed the history of the Woods, the style of the Colonial Revival home, the setting and the large trees.

He concluded, “The period when 27 Woods Lane and the Woods subdivision as a whole were developed is exactly the time when Scarsdale was being transformed into one of the finest suburban communities in the NYC metropolitan region. Thus, the house exemplifies the architecture that reflects the key development in the broad pattern of Scarsdale’s history. …this subdivision retains its initial design integrity to a very high degree with all of the early houses appearing to largely retain their historic character. Thus, I conclude that this handsome house which could continue to be a comfortable home for a new family should not be demolished.”

Also in the intervening weeks, neighbors launched a petition on MoveOn to declare a six month moratorium on demolitions and subdivisions until laws could be rewritten to “modernize our codes and strengthen our governance to preserve our neighborhoods from overdevelopment.” The petition, which you can sign here, now has 238 signatures and residents plan to bring it to the Scarsdale Board of Trustees at their meeting on Tuesday October 24, 2023.

Representing homeowners John and Mary Jane Clerkin, who plan to sell the home to developers to subdivide the property and build two new homes, was architect Sid Schloman. He contended that the home was without historical merit. He pointed to design flaws in the symmetry of the front façade of the house and said that the original architects are unknown. He said that Cherry and Metz, a firm that did a renovation to the house were known for their religious structures, not homes. About the house he said, it is, “Quaint and cute but not an architectural masterpiece.”

Many residents were eager to express their views on the importance of the home in the neighborhood. Linda Killian of 1 Forest Lane said, 27 Woods Lane is a the beginning of a bend in a beautifully designed area, planned by a group of architects and developers over time. All it takes is one horrible development to ruin that. I see far too many teardowns and too many cookie cutter houses. I don’t want to have that happen in my neighborhood or in any other neighborhood. It is time that the interest of the residents become more aligned with the land use boards.”

Jim Detmer of 21 Woods Lane, who organized his neighbors and the petition said, “We are concerned about the evolution of our neighborhood… and concerned about a teardown and about aesthetics and land use. The demolition of this house would be a neighborhood loss and a community disaster. Read the conclusion of Dolkarts report. It embodies the specific criteria of a period and reflects the key patterns of the development of the Village. Part of the history of the Woods is land –-- large backyard, mature trees, a tall white oak and an enormous tulip tree. We can’t close our eyes to the topographical history of this area – they call it the Woods for a reason.”

Lisa Judson of 6 Woods Lane said she has lived in her house for 22 year. She said, “I understood that “The Woods” was a special area. 20 Woods is the original house. That house has a dock in the back over the Hutchinson River. That is an historic house. It was built before the Kensico Dam. Do not put more houses in this area – this is the 4th time in 5 years I have had to rebuild my basement.”

Jared DiPalma of Southwoods Lane said, “The Woods is truly a time capsule and a living museum of the Village’s vision for development and suburbanization between the 20’s and the 30’s. Since its development no home has ever been demolished from the original 1930’s plan and no new development has occurred in “The Woods” since the early 1960’s.”

Rita Piazza of 50 Woods Lane said, “I left notes for 6 years to get onto woods lane one of the most beautiful blocks in Scarsdale. It would be a terrible disservice to allow the construction of two homes there. People don’t want those identical twin homes.”

Linda Swann of 26 Tunstall Road said “We walk on Southwoods, Eastwoods and Woods Lane all the time. It is unspoiled – tearing down this house would spoil this area for us. Come to Tunstall Road – see what they have built on 25 Tunstall Road. If you allow one to be torn down, they use that as justification to tear down more. You say that’s outside the rules – then the rules need to be changed. There is no reason to take these houses except for someone else to make money – and they don’t even live here.”

Rick Birch of 52 Woods Lane said he moved here with his wife and two daughters in 2018. He said, “We were sold on the house when we drove up the road. That was it – before we got into the house.”

Jonathan Lewis of 56 Woods Lane said, “It’s been wonderful for me to listen to my neighbors who call the neighborhood “a time capsule and a living museum. It would be a neighborhood loss … it’s a work of art and it’s a beautiful house. When I look at the charter of the CHP – to preserve our neighborhoods – I am persuaded that Dolkart’s recommendation is exactly right. It could be a home for a new family. The tree arbor is part of our historical legacy. This is what we are trying to preserve – it exemplifies the suburbanization that makes Scarsdale great. It is the fulcrum of the neighborhood. I would encourage you to use your power to preserve our neighborhood – you have the power to save this – you have the power to save our Village from rampant development. Use your authority and save this home from demolition.”

Audrey Schwarz of 242 Madison Road said, “The Woods is a beautiful area. Its architectural sameness brings a higher value for all of their neighbors.” She asked, “If we petitioned to save the neighborhood could it be considered?”

CHP Chair Adam Lindenbaum repeatedly said “No that’s not our charter.”

After repeated pleas for changes in the law Board Member Kevin Reed suggested the residents go to the Board of Trustees with their concerns.

When a vote was called, Lindenbaum made a motion to the deny the teardown application which was seconded by Reed and approved unanimously by the entire committee.

Following the meeting Jonathan Lewis said, “Everyone who cares about preserving our neighborhoods should be proud of our village Committee for Historic Preservation. Tonight, Village Hall was packed with neighbors asking the CHP to protect 27 Woods Lane from demolition. The CHP listened and voted unanimously to preserve this gracious home that represents a unique period in Scarsdale History."

Our neighbors showed up in force and the message to our village government was clear - We are ready to stand up and fight to protect our village from over development.

Jim Detmer and I plan to attend next week’s Village Board of Trustees meeting to present our petition calling for a 6 month moratorium on teardowns and development. We think this action is absolutely necessary so our village code and governance structure can be modernized to ensure that our neighborhoods, historic vistas, and natural environment is protected for the next generation. We call on all neighbors who care about protecting the characteristics that make Scarsdale so special to join us."

Following the Woods Lane decision, the Committee approved three more demolitions.

The first was a 1914 garage and carriage house at 6 Cooper Road, that originally went with a historic house at 2 Cooper Road. The property has since been subdivided20 Heathcote20 Heathcote Road will be torn down. and the structure stands alone on one of the lots.

It did not win unanimous approval. Committee members Jonathan Lerner argued that the 3,500 square foot carriage house should be preserved. He said, “Since the home at 2 Cooper was saved and this goes with the house I think it’s a shame that it be torn down.”

However developer Bobby Ben Simon, who owns two sides of the subdivided lot argued with him. He said, “The house was not preserved because of the decision of the board. You did not do your job – there was no reason to save the house. If there was one house that should have been preserved it should have been this.”

He was yelling and threatening and Lindenbaum warned him to calm down and respect the committee or the Board would leave the proceedings.

Ultimately they approved the demolition of the garage.

Also to be demolished is a 10,563 square foot home at 20 Heathcote Road, built by the Milstein Family. Joshua Lamberg of 4 Bethel Road says he will build a home there for his family. Though distinctive, the board did not find that the house met the criteria for preservation.

CooperRoadTrees(Correction) It has come to the attention of that, at the time the large trees on the subdivided lot at Copper Road were removed (pictured above), Ben Simon no longer owned the lot.  Mr. Simon did not remove the trees as previously reported.Last a small stone and shingle house designed by Philip Resnyck at 1 Ardmore Road will also be razed. Arguing for the demolition, the applicant said ,“We have already taken down nine or ten houses on the block.” His argument for the application spoke to residents’ claims that once the board permits one house in a neighborhood to be torn down, it becomes the justification for many more demolitions.

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