By Holly Crocco
Friends of Belden House, chaired by Carmel resident Ann Fanizzi, has filed a lawsuit against the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, which owns the structure, claiming it has failed follow through with its promise to rehabilitate the historic building.
In 2006, the DEP committed $2.9 million toward preserving the landmark, which is located on NYC watershed property and dates back to the 18th century. However, the DEP has since earmarked it for demolition.
The Belden House, which sits on the corner of Belden Road and Route 6 in Carmel, has been deteriorating for years. Most recently, the roof, which had been covered by a tarpaulin, has been removed, and rainwater leaking through the roof has compromised the building, according to Fanizzi.
The NYCDEP purchased the property in 1896 when it constructed a dam behind the house, and used it as an office and residence for a site custodian until it was abandoned about 100 years later.
In 2005, the Putnam County Legislature opted not to fund restoration efforts, leading to the DEP allocating almost $3 million to rehabilitate it, with Friends of Belden House to occupy the first floor and the DEP’s land management group to occupy the second floor.
According to Fanizzi, bids were submitted, an architect was selected and contracts were generated. She said it was even determined specifically what the funds would be used for. “It was clearly delineated,” she said.
However, between the financial crisis of 2007-08, and several people involved stepping away from the project, it never came to fruition, and “the money went away,” said Fanizzi.
She said the Belden House is eligible for state and federal historic site designation. “And here, the DEP has permitted an eligible historic site to been in derelict – what could easily become a tourist destination in Carmel,” she said.
By allowing the house to go into disrepair, Fanizzi said the DEP is violating its own regulations regarding watershed protections, as well as town code regarding dilapidated housing, in addition to state and federal regulations surrounding historic properties.
“The DEP has taken our water, they’ve taken our land, and now they’re taking our history,” she said. “It needs to be redressed.”
Going forward, Fanizzi said the $2.9 million that was originally earmarked for the Belden House is not enough. Now, advocates will seek closer to $5 million.
“I am disappointed at our county elected officials who have not been aggressive in protecting our historic legacy,” she said.
The Carmel Town Board has expressed its support of preserving the historic home, by passing a resolution earlier this year that calls on the state to step up and save the structure.
The suit was filed in Putnam County Court.