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Letter: Historic Designation of St. George Winery

This letter was written by Yorktown resident, Bill Primavera. To submit your own letter to the editor, submit it to

How ironic and bittersweet that the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation has just asked Yorktown for its input on the proposed historic designation of the St. George Winery. The input was supposed to be provided by a Landmark Preservation Commission, but Yorktown has not had such a commission for some years, and that's because of the St. George Winery!

For those who remember the history of the issue, the Commission membership resigned en masse a few years ago when the Town Board refused to act upon its recommendation that the St. George be landmarked at that time. The sticking point, according to Councilman Martorano, was that such designation would not require the permission of the property owner, and it was considered a violation of that owner's rights. And at the time, the owner definitely did not want the St. George building landmarked because he was seeking to develop it into a commercial operation without hindrance.

The tragedy of the Town's having no Landmark Preservation Commission over the past few years probably helped speed the demise of the Melbourne Farmhouse by the Yorktown Central School District and has allowed the Adams-Bernstein House to deteriorate to the point where it will soon be ramshackled and will probably fall down on its own. The latter property belongs to the Town, a bequest that must have the benefactress rolling over in her grave!

At the Work Session, the Supervisor said that nobody came forward when the Board sought to recruit volunteers for a new Landmarks Preservation Committee, and that upset me greatly because I am the citizen who last year campaigned for the re-establishment of the Commission, asking that an announcement be made, seeking members. At least five or six of us replied, all highly qualified for such a volunteer position, and were interviewed by the Board, only to receive a perfunctory letter afterwards saying, basically, that the board was "not prepared at this time" to reappoint a Landmarks Commission.

But now, the Board's reluctance to do so has come back to bite us in pocketbook because the State can rescind the certification of the Town as a "Certified Local Government," and the Town would lose funding as a consequence.The funny and bittersweet irony is that the landmark in question today is the St. George Winery, owned by Tom DeChiaro who, now that his winery is successfully in place, has come forward to say that he would welcome such historic designation and even volunteered to help start up a new Landmarks Preservation Commission himself!

Stranger than fiction.

But no matter how we got to this point, there are enough threats out there to the Town's motto of "Progress with Preservation," based primarily on the rush to welcome new businesses to town. While we might find ourselves reverting to the kind of Wild West decisions that could re-fashion Routes 6 and 202 as our very own Central Avenues, let's have just a little respect for our history and for teaching our children the lessons to be learned from it.

Sincerely,Bill Primavera

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