On Wednesday, March 13, 2019, Cuddy & Feder Partner, Joshua J. Grauer, swayed the majority of the City of White Plains Historic Preservation Commission to vote against the proposed landmark designation of two 100+ year-old properties at 6 and 8 Chester Avenue. The chairman of the committee had initially rushed to stop demolition when he noticed a construction fence around the property and demolition equipment on site. Our client had previously obtained all zoning approvals for construction of a new three-story medical building and was awaiting issuance of the customary demolition permit which was imminent. The Chairman literally stopped the wrecking ball, setting in motion a very tense period of months where the Commission considered whether the two buildings warranted preservation under the Code.
At its first meeting, the Commission determined that there was a sufficient basis to propose the properties for designation as White Plains landmarks, relying on the fact that the two buildings were part of a subdivision created by David Cromwell, the founder of the Home Savings Bank and highly regarded philanthropist and public official in White Plains and Westchester County. That determination set the stage for a February 13, 2019 public hearing.
At the public hearing, Josh Grauer summarized all of the reasons that both the spirit and letter of the law were not satisfied. He stressed that the buildings themselves were not directly associated with any historic individual or event nor had anyone ever suggested that either building’s design represented the work of a master architect or building worthy of preservation. The experts presented by the firm were the only expert testimony forming a part of the record, and each presented multiple reasons why each of the City Preservation criteria were not satisfied. While the Chairman persisted with many reasons in his view that the buildings were deserving of preservation, every other Commission member ultimately voted to the contrary. After the decision of the Commission was announced, the developer swiftly proceeded with demolition.