By Jano Tantongco
The owner of the old Huntington Firehouse building on Main Street wants to demolish the building as part of his plans to build a multi-use structure in the village, but local historians have petitioned the town board to get a historical designation for the building, potentially blocking development.
Alan Fromkin, who owns the 233 Main St. property with wife Jan, said that, if a historical designated is granted, it could disrupt plans to develop a mixed-use structure, including retail and apartments, in the village. On Wednesday, Fromkin said that part of his plans include demolition of the old firehouse, which is currently occupied by the Classic Galleries furniture store.
“My heart and soul has been in this town all my life. I have held onto the property in good times and bad,” said Fromkin, who spoke during a public hearing at Tuesday’s town board meeting. “It’s neither fair nor appropriate to designate the building, and it will cause me significant hardship if it is designated.”
When a property is historically designated, according to town code, it prevents industrial uses, requires a certificate of approval from the town board for any additions or alterations, with additional potential limitations determined upon approval.
Jim Margolin, the Huntington-based attorney representing Fromkin, said in an interview Wednesday that the development would span a total of five nearby buildings, which are also owned by Fromkin. However, no plans have been filed with the town yet, according to Margolin.
“Designation would all but eliminate the possibility of that project becoming a reality,” Margolin said.
The board was petitioned to designate the building by the Huntington Historical Preservation Committee, which studies, reviews and recommends potential historical landmarks and districts.
Lawrence Leek, a member of the committee, who spoke during the public hearing, said the designation sought by the committee would be specific to the 51-by-60-foot facade of the building, which includes the old signage that reads “Fire Dept,” and ornate tin ceilings.
Leek said designation of the old firehouse on Main Street, which was built in 1911 and was in operation until 1958, is especially given the recent demolition of the First Firehouse on Wall Street.
Brian Riggs, secretary for the Huntington Fire Department, speaking on behalf of Chief Jesse Cukro, said during the public hearing that Cukro supports the historical designation, but added that the department isn’t taking a stance on the proposed development.
“Any effort to preserve the rich history of our town and the spirit of community and service the fire department represents should be applauded,” he said. “It still does have some rich history for the town.”
Claudia Fortunato-Napolitano, executive director of Huntington Historical Society, advocated for the designation of the building, but said the society still supports the “continued adaptive reuse” of it.
“The firehouse building is an important component adding to the historic character and charm of the village,” she said.
In an interview Wednesday, Margolin contested that the building has lost its “corner prominence,” and that it no longer holds on to its historical components.
He added, “Since construction, there have been significant additions made to the building.”