Campaigners Rally City to Save Derelict Historic Staten Island Home

By Nicholas Rizzi on February 21, 2014 10:18am 

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 A group of local conservationists has started a petition to ask the city to buy the historic Manee-Seguine Homestead from the owner in order to repair it.
Manee-Seguine Homestead
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PRINCE'S BAY — Preservationists are urging the city to buy one of the oldest homes in Staten Island after its owner let it fall into disrepair.

The Friends of Abraham Manee-Seguine Homestead started a petition this month asking Mayor Bill de Blasio to buy the home — which has a large hole in its roof and a crumbling chimney — from owner, Leonard Tallo, in order to restore it.

"It's in relatively good condition, it just needs some work," said Nick Matranga, 43, who started the group and petition. "It needs somebody to invest money to shore up the structure."

Tallo was sued in April by the Landmarks Preservation Commission because he failed to repair the historic home at 509 Seguine Ave., which was built in the 1670s. He blamed part of the damage on Hurricane Sandy, according to court papers.

Tallo said several engineers have told him that the house cannot be repaired and would need to be demolished, and the majority of the damage happened before he bought the structure in 2009.

"The damage didn't happen on my clock," he said. "They really put the whole burden on me."

Tallo's lawyer, Anthony Lenza, found an emergency declaration filed in 2008 by the Department of Buildings that said the house needed to be demolished. That was later rescinded.

Tallo said that was hidden from him when he bought the home.

"I bought it with a set of plans and it was to restore that house and build three houses," Tallo said.

"I went by what Landmarks said, I took their word for it. God can't save that house, it's that bad."

According to a study by the New York Landmarks Conservancy report in 2013, engineers found that while the house was badly damaged, it was not a lost cause.

Tallo said he would be willing to sell the home to anybody who made him an offer.

Matranga said his petition has been signed by 300 people.

The house was built by French Hugenont protestants who came to Staten Island to escape religious persecution.

Its later owners, the Seguine family, farmed oysters nearby until pollution hit the waters of Prince's Bay. It was also used as a hotel, according to the Landmark designation.

Some of the roof beams date all the way back 1670s, Matranga said, and it's one of the few pre-1750 buildings left on Staten Island.

"Are we going to let another structure that's been standing for 340 years slip out of our hands?" Matranga said. "I don't know why this has languished so long."

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