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29th March

First Published in The New York Sun, March 29, 2006

By Andrew Wolf

Members on the City Council’s landmarks subcommittee yesterday heard conflicting testimony on whether the Fieldston community in the northwest Bronx merits historic designation.

Although the hearing drew so many people that there was standing room only, only a handful of council members attended. Many dashed between rooms so they could participate in a hearing on the Yankee Stadium redevelopment project being held simultaneously in another room.
While there was general agreement that the private enclave needed to be protected, the question came down to whether that protection will come from government or the residents themselves.

Council Member Charles Barron of Brooklyn expressed his views on landmarking in general. “I appreciate historic preservation, but also I appreciate the freedom for property owners to have control over their property.That’s the real challenge here because it really could be an infringement on property owners,” he said.

Those in opposition believe that the process will be costly and burdensome. A former city buildings commissioner who is a Riverdale resident, Charles Moerdler, told the panel that he does not support making Fieldston a historic district because it will inevitably exclude young families who might want to move there.
Despite the diminishing support among homeowners for the historic designation, Council Member Oliver Koppell told his colleagues that he would like the landmark status to be his legacy.

Although opponents claim 135 of the 257 property owners are now in opposition, Mr. Koppell said he would not base his vote on numbers.

“Landmarking is something that’s important not only to property owners but to everybody in the area, everybody in the city, and in some sense maybe everyone in the country,” he said. “The owner does not control the process. Should we pay attention to owners? Absolutely. But is this a majority vote situation? Absolutely not.”

He asked his colleagues to count the petitions, although he said that would not sway his vote. The subcommittee will consider yesterday’s testimony and could refer the issue to the Land Use Committee as early as April 5.

© 2006 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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