East Hills preserves historic home

Brandon Duffy
The Village of East Hills and owners of the Mackay house reached an agreement that ends a long back and forth. (Photo courtesy of The Island Now)

The Village of East Hills has reached an agreement with the owners of a historic 92-year-old house that will preserve the building and allow them to have two buildable lots on the property.

The property at 2A Melby Lane, the John Mackay III house, is owned by Steve and Wendy Shenfeld, who in 2017 sought to demolish the main house and split the property in half as part of a four-house subdivision.

The agreement ends an ongoing discourse between the homeowners and village which involved zoning applications, denials and recommendations from the state to preserve the property. 

The Mackay estate sits on 2.23 acres. Made of stone and constructed in 1929, the house was originally built for John Mackay III, grandson of John Mackay, who was one of the discoverers of the Comstock silver mines in the 1870s. His father, Clarence Mackay, was owner of the 648-acre Harbor Hill estate which made up much of East Hills from 1902 to the 1940s.

In late 2020, the East Hills Planning Board rejected the Shenfelds’ application to demolish the main house and divide the property, saying it failed to “mitigate the significant impact attending to the demolition of the Mackay house.” The rejection came a few weeks after the state’s Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation recommended that the structure not be knocked down.

Preserving the property, which currently is on the market, according to Zillow, allows the village to preserve a piece of history, said Mayor Michael Koblenz. 

In a news release, he said, “History is a part of the fabric of our society. Through this resolution we preserve our past and embrace it as part of our culture in East Hills.” 

Helping preserve the property is a series of covenants that “run with the land” and have been filed. The filing will prevent future homeowners from any prohibited actions in regard to the land. 

With a complete demolition out of the picture, an alternative plan considered for the homeowners was to subdivide it, which the Planning Board said would have no significant environmental impact.

“After settling the case they have two lots and the stone house will be preserved, whoever’s buying it,” Koblenz said in an interview. “Any repairs necessary for the property will be the responsibility of the next homeowner.”

Koblenz commended the efforts of officials who helped throughout this process. 

“It’s a big relief and I’m happy that we were able to resolve it,” he said. “We’ve saved a piece of history and made everybody else happy after a long process. Nothing that is worth fighting for doesn’t take a lot of time and effort.” 

Efforts to reach the Shenfeld family were unavailing. 

About the author

Brandon Duffy

Brandon Duffy is a New Jersey-based reporter for The Island Now, a position he assumed in July of 2021. He covers news out of Floral Park, New Hyde Park, the Willistons and Mineola, previously reporting on business and elections.
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