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Facing Demolition of Historic House, Fenimore St. Group Prepares to Fight

 This home at 176 Fenimore St. and Bedford Avneue was built in 1905, property records show. Now, a developer is seeking to demolish it and a local block association is fighting to preserve it.
This home at 176 Fenimore St. and Bedford Avneue was built in 1905, property records show. Now, a developer is seeking to demolish it and a local block association is fighting to preserve it.
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DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith

PROSPECT-LEFFERTS GARDENS — Neighbors of a 1900s-era house that's threatened with demolition are promising to go to court, saying an historic deed restriction states it must remain a single-family home.

Members of the Fenimore Street Block Association are ready to fight for the large, wood-frame house at 176 Fenimore St. and Bedford Avenue that was built in 1905.

They say it cannot be developed into a larger building due to specifications laid out in its deed.

The group has backing from several officials — including City Councilman Mathieu Eugene, who spoke at a press conference Friday — and at least one mayoral candidate.

On Friday, state Sen. Tony Avella of Queens, who is running for mayor as a Democrat, showed up to lend his support to the Fenimore Street group.

He also took the opportunity to slam the mayor for not doing more to protect neighborhoods such as Prospect-Lefferts Gardens, saying that not one zoning change to limit height and density in a neighborhood has been approved since Mayor Bill de Blasio took office.

His claim, however, is not quite true — at least one small downzoning was approved last year, in the Woodlawn section of the Bronx, according to local reports.

“The fact that … the person I’m running against, the mayor, has not done a downzoning in the City of New York since his election is disgraceful,” he said.

Fenimore Street association members are hopeful they’ll be approved for a downzoning. And if they aren’t, they say their property’s deed restrictions will be enough to legally protect them — and they’re prepared to sue the city.

“What’s the point of having a deed restriction if no one’s going to pay attention to it?” asked Fenimore Street resident Calvert Hadley who has lived next to 176 Fenimore St. since the 1970s. “Might as well destroy all documentation. It makes no sense.”

The house, which neighbors said was used as an office by a private medical practice until this past summer, may soon be demolished, according to a request for a permit filed with the city Jan. 25 by Cheskie Weisz of the real estate group CW Realty.

It’s unclear what Weisz — or his company listed on the permit, 1919 Bedford LLC — plans to do with the house. Neither responded to inquires about the project made by phone and email Friday.

But Weisz’s name is connected to many developments in the city, including on the Upper East Side, Bushwick and Williamsburg, according to reports.

The threat of development on Fenimore Street is mobilizing the block association, which has been fighting for months to rezone their block to preserve its detached, Victorian and early 20th Century homes.

In November, the group partnered with the local community board to push the city to change land use rules on the block based on historic deed restrictions they found for most of the homes on Fenimore Street between Bedford and Rogers avenues. Legally, they say, they have a strong case.

“We will be taking this gentleman to court, whether it’s Cheskie Weisz, Dr. Simon [the doctor who operated in the home] … or all of the above,” said Paul Graziano, a zoning consultant hired by the homeowners.

State Sen. Tony Avella, a mayoral candidate, speaks to residents of Fenimore Street at a news conference Friday. (Photo credit: DNAinfo/Rachel Holliday Smith)

Currently, it’s unclear who owns the property. The most recent deed on file there is from 1996 and lists the owner as “Downstate Enterprises, Inc.”

To help pay legal bills for its upcoming court battle, the group is trying to raise $20,000 on GoFundMe. As of Friday afternoon,  it had received about $3,600 in donations.