School destroys Fieldston's history


To the editor:

(re: “Horace Mann ready to convert another Tibbett Ave home,” April 23)

We read with great distaste how Horace Mann spokespeople blithely stated how respectful they are of “history,” of keeping the residential look and feel, and how they continue getting away with having violated so many Landmarks Preservation Commission regulations, Fieldston Property Owners Association rules, and agreements.

The information exhibited in this story doesn’t tell the full story.

An important note to keep in mind is that the Horace Mann school campuses are all out of Fieldston boundaries, and their purchasing Fieldston residential historical properties — two in the ‘70s, two in the ‘90s and four in the last 10 years — doesn’t justify the use of our streets or properties for their operations. It completely changes the residential, historic and bucolic natural setting our founders envisioned.

Community Board 8 has been at fault here, also, accepting to consider proposals by Horace Mann, following a detailed letter of encroachments, violations and harassments from residents before the meeting — proposals with no protection from the very people who have continued to violate rules and regulations. Allowing Horace Mann to pump their chests about how respectful they are by not having torn down any of their acquired houses with no comment regarding the destruction, bullying and harassment involved, is tough to swallow.

The CB8 board is well aware of this, but that simply skirts the issue ignoring the fact that inaction also has consequences.

The Fieldston property owners board carries most of the responsibility for this crisis, because its continuous lack of involvement and actions in crucial CB8 meetings for the last eight years.

Future applications should be denied because Horace Mann has accumulated a long list of Landmark Preservation Commission violations on its Tibbett Avenue properties, forcing it to abandon many — if not all — of its previous applications, and a variety of those violations persist. Those violations and Horace Mann School’s encroachment into the residential landmarked Fieldston neighborhood are of longstanding concern to Fieldston residents.

Horace Mann has not only converted homes into offices and classrooms, but has industrialized the area with paved pathways, sidewalks, reduced foliage, prominent signs, fences, railings, cameras and the like — many of them violations of both the landmarks commission and the Fieldston property owners.

The area of Fieldston covered by the association is a unique historic landmarked “highly restricted, well-kept and properly maintained suburban residential section.” The landmarks commission has designated the neighborhood a historic district, “one of New York City’s most beautiful and well-planned early 20th century suburban communities,” according to a 2006 historical district designation report.

Tibbett Avenue has a special historic value to Fieldston, as 4455 Tibbett Ave. — right across the street from the 4456 Tibbett Ave., applicant here — was the first house built in Fieldston beginning in 1911.

Horace Mann has been set on destroying that historic residential character and designation.

On June 25, 2018, the landmarks commission withdrew Horace Mann’s application on 4440 Tibbett Ave., for failing to provide the commission with requested information. That application was to address outstanding landmarks violations, including paving a front area without a permit, as well as a warning letter for installing freestanding signs without a permit.

Those violations remain outstanding.

On Aug. 13, 2018, the landmarks commission withdrew Horace Mann’s application on 4411 Tibbett Ave., for failing to provide requested information. That application was to address various outstanding violations, including for the installation of security cameras as well as replacing windows and doors, and replacing the front walkway and sidewalk, all without a permit.

Those violations remain outstanding.

On Aug. 23, 2018, the landmarks commission withdrew Horace Mann’s application on 4401 Tibbett Ave., for failing to provide requested information. The commission noted outstanding violations, including ongoing window replacement, installation of HVAC units at a rear extension, alterations to a front yard including excavation, replacing a roof and installing junction boxes on a façade, all without a permit.

These violations remain outstanding.

Thank you for letting us shed some light on the threat of institutionalization Fieldston is facing.

Avner Amarilio

The author says he represents other “concerned Fieldston residents.”

Have an opinion? Share your thoughts as a letter to the editor. Make your submission to letters@riverdalepress.com. Please include your full name, phone number (for verification purposes only), and home address (which will not be published).
Avner Amarilio,