The fate of a home that once belonged to Emmett Smith, a former surveyor for the City of Bayonne in the late 1800’s – along with many buildings symbolizing Bayonne’s rich history – lies heavily on the decision of the Bayonne Historic Preservation Committee on December 1.
The site, that was in the process of demolition and currently owned by developer Mitchell Burakovsky, sits on the corner of 5th street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard, is considered by many the welcoming landmark in Bergen Point – an area that was closely connected to Staten Island in the late 17th century.
Baer Hanusz-Rajkowsi, a six-year resident of Bayonne, sought out over 700 signatures and addressed the City Council about the importance of preserving the property during their November 10 meeting.
When he addressed city council, Sharon Nadrowski, the Bayonne City Council President replied, “I don’t know that we have the right to tell people what to do with their land.”
Nadrowski did compare the policies of the Historic Preservation Committee in Jersey City, one of Bayonne’s neighboring cities.
“We don’t have one. We can certainly look into it and inquire about it, but there is not one in the books right now.”
According to the Historic Preservation Commission of Jersey City:
“Any development, construction, alteration, rehabilitation or repair of any sign, building or property within the four designated Historic Districts of the City or a landmark building, requires the owner of the property to first secure a Certificate of No Effect (CoNE) or a Certificate of Appropriateness (CoA) from the Jersey City Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), before work commences whether or not a construction permit is required. Currently the City of Bayonne does not have the policies in place that encourage historic preservation.”
During the most recent council meeting, 1st Ward Councilman Thomas Cotter mentioned that an ordinance can help preserve Bayonne’s history.
“Maybe an ordinance, I don’t know if an ordinance would be able to stop this building right now in this case, but I think it would be a good idea for future buildings that we can save.”
Currently, there are no policies in place that would help would provide the decisions of the Bayonne Historic Preservation Committee any legal weight.
As a result of the 700 signatures and Hanusz-Rajkowski’s public address to City Council, along with the follow up by Cotter and Bayonne Business Administrator Joe DeMarco, the demolition of the site was put to a temporary halt pending the results of meeting in December.
Laura Marsella of the Bayonne Historic Preservation Commission declined to comment until the public meeting.
Hanusz-Rajkowski encourages the residents of Bayonne to attend the Historic Preservation Committee meeting on December 1, with hopes that the city will buy the property from the developer or that the developer can take a tax write off and opt to give the building back to the city.