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Landmarked Brooklyn Eyesore Finally Meets Bittersweet Ending

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Still affected by the loss of one of the city's landmarked homes, the Times takes a look at what went wrong with the newly-demolished historic clapboard building at 69 Vanderbilt Street. The home in the Wallabout Historic District (PDF!) of Clinton Hill was erected in 1850 in the mirror image of its neighbor at 71, both fashioned by master carpenter Richard P. Pease. The home's current owner, Louis Somma, moved in with his family in 1931, two decades prior to Robert Moses' path of destruction ahead of building the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. The construction on the throughway, just across the street from the home, caused the main beam in the basement of 69 to crack. Over the years, the beam has gone without repair, allowing the house to sink and warp. The structural deficiencies, coupled with a negligent owner—Somma acquired the deed from his mother in 1979 for $50,000—led the home on its path to demolition.

"It's a terrible outcome, but public safety trumps the landmarks law," deputy council of the LPC John Weiss told the Times. Weiss has been saving neglected buildings for over 30 years. Number 69 is the third building he's had to destroy. To bring down the former squatter's haven—Somma was evicted in 2009—workers used hand tools like hammers rather than wrecking balls and plows. The delicate procedure not only helped to abate the release of asbestos, but also allowed the building, surrounded by other homes, fall in a controlled fashion. As for Somma, he sure does believe his property is worth something. "The land's probably worth $5 million," he told the Times. The mirror-image home at 71 was renovated and sold in 2013 for just over $1 million.
· An Eyesore, Also a Piece of History, Is Demolished in Brooklyn [NYT]