Many may have read the article that was featured in the Saratogian on Monday, August 22nd regarding the demolition of 172 Ballston Avenue.
This letter was submitted to the Saratogian’s Reader’s View to provide perspective.
August 26, 2011
NEGLECT IS NEVER THE SOLUTION
To ask why the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation (SSPF) is opposing the demolition of 66 Franklin Street and not 172 Ballston Avenue is a reasonable question.
The Winans-Crippen House, 66 Franklin Street, is located in the local historic district and is a contributing structure to the Franklin Square/West Side Historic District listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The house at 172 Ballston Avenue is not. It is located in an architectural review district, which does not provide the same protections.
The Winans-Crippen House is significant for two reasons. It was designed by J.D. Stevens, the architect of the United States Hotel, and is one of the few remaining examples of his work. Also, it is in the Second Empire style and tells the story of the architectural development of Franklin Square. It still retains much of its original exterior historic detail.
Little was known about the history or date of construction of 172 Ballston Avenue at the time of its initial demolition application to the DRC in 2007. While it may prove to date back as far back as 1810, its architectural integrity has been compromised and most of its architectural detail has been lost. The loss of architectural features and the applicant’s demonstration that the building was “economically and practically unfeasible” were the basis for DRC approval of demolition
While preserving historic buildings is important, preserving the integrity of demolition approval process is equally as important. That is why SSPF sought decisions from City and NYS Supreme Courts to prevent the demolition of 66 Franklin Street. Without prior approval by the DRC, City Court does not have the jurisdiction to issue a demolition order; only the NYS Supreme Court can order a demolition through Section 382. The owner of 66 Franklin Street chose not to complete the DRC process and withdrew his application. The same process needs to be followed for 172 Ballston Avenue. While it may have received initial approvals for demolition and lot subdivision, those approvals have lapsed. Without the DRC demolition approval, City Court cannot issue a demolition order. A Section 382 application needs to be filed in NYS Supreme Court or the owner must return to the DRC for approval.
Unfortunately, both of these properties are examples of a larger citywide problem – lack of enforcement of the NYS Property Maintenance Code resulting in demolition by neglect. This code requires a minimum level of building maintenance to prevent its falling into disrepair. Failure to enforce the Property Maintenance Code allows owners to neglect the condition of their buildings until they become a blight on the neighborhood, thereby diminishing the potential for restoration. As a result, the community is left with a building that no longer contributes to the rich architectural heritage that makes Saratoga Springs special. Early intervention by the City to enforce the Property Maintenance Code can prevent a demolition from being the only solution. SSPF wants to work with the City to prevent this avoidable loss of our City’s historic resources.
Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation