Responding To Richardson House Letter

This village-owned empty lot on Circle Drive in Plandome Manor was at the center of a bond referendum earlier this year. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Editor’s note: The following is a response by Preserve the Green to the letter titled Lamenting The Loss Of The Richardson House printed in the Manhasset Press on Sept. 14.

Facts matter, as does the integrity of the truthful written word in a public forum. Five and a half months ago this past April, after the decisive successful bond referendum vote to Preserve the Green, an inflammatory, vitriolic misrepresented non-factual letter was printed in the Manhasset Press. It unfairly maligned Circle Drive homes in the area of Plandome Manor, blaming them for not saving the Richardson House. What is actually incredulous is the letter is authored by three people who are not even residents of the village.

In the highest voter turnout in village election history, the bond referendum was won decisively at 57 percent in support of Preserve the Green versus 43 percent against (a 15 percent spread).

One of the principal authors of the letter was one of only two buyers over a two-year period remotely interested in purchasing the Richardson House. Both sales fell through after a negative damming engineers report that required exorbitant repairs. Additionally, the writer was part of a two-year history with the previous owners in herculean efforts that failed to landmark the home, and failed to attract any historical, preservationists, individuals or societies interested in taking the home.

Thwarted in the exhaustive search, the owners sold to a developer with the knowledge that the house was to be demolished. So how is this considered the fiscal responsibility of the private homeowners in the Plandome Manor neighborhood to save the house?

Let’s be clear. It was never about the preservation of the house, and Mayor Barbara Donno admitted her indifference to that fact on the record, during a Board of Trustees meeting where their own historic preservation expert stated of the 800-square-foot historical portion, “the only remnants of the original house are some timbers, nails, and parts of a fireplace and oven.” Under the faux guise of preserving a home, the board used this as an opportunity to construct an operational business into a residential neighborhood.

Plandome Manor voters were urged to vote against a village proposal to erect a village hall on the surrounding lot. (Photo by Frank Rizzo)

Knowing the acrimonious and litigious history to keep the park/green space over three decades, one would like to believe lessons were learned to obviate an expected tsunami of opposition up front. Yet, resident concerns, especially the immediate impacted families next to and within 500 feet with valid and documented issues with flooding, and environmental concerns, that to this day remains unresolved, along with aesthetics, day-to-day business operations, parking, traffic, noise, loss of privacy to preserve the park/green space were ignored and not considered.

As opposition grew, it mushroomed into a strategic highly publicized TV and media abhorrent unwanted intrusive campaign into our homes to malign residents against preserving a home that was old, not historic and in disrepair to further a narrative.

Multiple residents reached out to the Mayor, and many met in person seeking common ground, alternatives, compromises and offered solutions. Crickets. None of the residents knew of any committees, and none of the impacted residents were approached to join in community meetings, and none knew of any 9/11 memorial plans as referenced in the Sept. 14 letter.

The opportunity to unite, rather than divide a community was irretrievably lost. The regrettable acrimonious publicity got in the way of honest collaborative communication which could have been avoided through honest dialogue and statesman leadership.

Residents only first became aware of the Board desire for a village hall at the end of January of this year. This fact had never been previously communicated to the residents at Board meetings. Nor the fact that the Board had voluntarily not renewed the village hall lease in Manhasset 18 months prior. None of the residents were invited to participate in pre-planning, or be present at committee meetings already in progress, and well advanced in the last quarter of 2021 taking place without resident knowledge or input.

It wasn’t until the end of January 2022, when the Board first presented and made known plans to the community with landscaping and architectural drawings, when residents saw how much planning had advanced in secrecy, and the Board statement this was the first time discussing a “fact finding mission” was false.

It is lamentable this letter has regurgitated a past with renewed bitterness, once again intruding rudely into our community. Now is the time for healing and putting the past behind, and not letting outsiders consciously divide the community, and prey upon fissures that already exist and make them wider so you can’t talk to each other across them.

The Mayor’s statement in the Manhasset Press for a 911 memorial on the green is a good start, and a wonderful idea. The community would definitely get behind something of this magnitude. As a young 18-year-old member of the community stated at the September 20 Board meeting, responding to the Mayor’s statement in a previous article, articulated a plan to utilize the space and plant two trees resembling the Towers, erect as a memorial for ALL residents in and out of the neighborhood to enjoy. It would yield high visibility and be accessible to a large volume of people getting on and off the train, bringing people together to celebrate what makes this community unique as a family.

We remain proud to have a run a factual and honest campaign, and direct all readers, and interest for information available on the website

The writers of the Sept. 14 letter will be greatly welcomed.

—Sarah Meriggi on behalf of Preserve the Green


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