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Preservation on My Mind

We have a long history of interest in preservation of the hamlet of Oyster Bay. It’s a long story. We were really hot on the issue for many years, hoping for a change, for a more pro-active attitude by the Oyster Bay Landmarks Commission.

If you read Carla Panetta’s letter to the editor you will see another side to preservation from the one we spoke about last week. There are two sides to the story. Probably there are more than two.

Over the years we have written editorials trying to save one or another of our historic buildings – to no avail. There were no other people willing to stand up in the community for preservation. Today we do have the Jewel By the Bay with Kathy Prinz, Ben Jankowski and Rita Pecora interested in preserving Oyster Bay. Tom Kuehhas of the Oyster Bay Historical Society has tried to encourage preservation by giving awards to homeowners who have restored their houses. We also have Isaac Kremer of the Main Street Association – and their board, including President Ellen Roché – who see the Octagon Hotel as worth saving. Finally there are people in town willing to stand up for preservation.

On the other hand, there were always homeowners who showed by how they cared for their homes that preservation was something that kept them here, and brought them here.

For years we asked the Town of Oyster Bay to become a Certified Local Government, a designation that opens the doors to federal preservation funds. We have seen then Assemblyman Tom DiNapoli get six figure grants for Great Neck, Roslyn and Manhasset using their CLG status for them. The town has as yet to see the benefit in this, although new Commissioner of Planning and Development Frederick Ippolito said in a telephone interview that Supervisor John Venditto wants to preserve the Octagon Hotel and is looking at reforming the Oyster Bay Landmarks Commission.

It looks as if things are looking up.


Ms. Panetta mentioned money being spent on the Octagon Hotel and we would comment that there should have been money already in place for helping to save buildings if we were on the road to fully appreciating the importance of preservation.

Tiptoeing around the issue of preservation has long been the practice in the hamlet. People would say to this writer – “This isn’t the time to stand up for preservation for this building” or “this isn’t the time to fight.”

When is the time to fight for something you believe in?

This is a location that cries out for preservation. Just here. Oyster Bay homeowners have been preserving their homes with great love. They see the benefit of this historical town. If we do everything over and replace everything with something new we are not preserving what is here.

What is wrong is that we are too late at the fair. We should have had this concept, this vision a long time ago. Hopefully it has arrived in the form of several wonderful people willing to say this hamlet is worth preserving.

We don’t want to alienate anyone. We truly enjoy Ms. Panetta’s verve and spirit. She is a delightful person but we want to fight it out with her on preservation.

It is a dialogue that needs to happen.