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Brooklyn’s Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead faces uncertain future

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It’s been called the best preserved Dutch Colonial landmark in Brooklyn — a storied farmhouse predating the American Revolution.

Over its more than two and a half centuries, the elegantly proportioned Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead — with its gently curved roof, dormer windows and columned porch perched incongruously amid the humming traffic and bustling apartment blocks of the borough’s Madison section — has housed only three families since 1766.

But to the dismay of local preservationists, that’s now history.

Emptied of its antiques, damaged by vandalism and in a state of disrepair, the historic property, now priced at $4 million, faces an uncertain future as one of the city’s dwindling breed of colonial relics — of which barely a dozen of the oldest remain — threatened by age and development pressures.

The property’s last occupants, Annette and Stuart Mont, a psychotherapist and her business executive husband, bought the 4,000-square-foot house replete with old-world furnishings for $160,000 in 1983 — about $480,000 today — in addition to an 1899 barn, all on a 22,000-square-foot property, comprising half an acre of land at 1669 E. 22nd St., off Kings Highway.

The property is known as one of Brooklyn's oldest, dating to around 1766.
The property is known as one of Brooklyn’s oldest, dating to around 1766.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

Raising their two children with the original dishes and silverware, swords and flintlock rifles, a horse-drawn sleigh and windows scratched with Hessian graffiti, the Monts tried selling the property to the city several times over the last two decades before talks collapsed in acrimony. Still, the family welcomed schoolchildren and other visitors for educational tours. Annette died in 2013, Stuart three years later. Their son Ira, who didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment, and daughter Randi sold it to the current sellers, partners listed in city records as 22nd Street Investors LLC, in October 2021 for $2.4 million.

The city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the farmhouse a landmark in 1968, but just its exterior is protected from alterations, with nothing else on the property safeguarded. And now, a new generation of occupants stands to make it their own — although exactly who that may be, and what plans may come, remain cloudy.

An archival image of the Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead.
An archival image of the Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead.
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission

A yeshiva and a synagogue recently voiced interest in purchasing or renting the homestead, two of the publicity-shy investors confirmed in recent conversations. But that’s now off the table, they said.

A sign on the barn with a phone number says, “LOT FOR SALE 22,000 SQ. FT. (WILL DIVIDE).”

Avraham Dishi, one of the property’s co-owners and president of Elysee Investment Company, a property management agency with extensive holdings in New York and Florida, confirmed they had been in talks with a yeshiva but he said, “they want it to rent, we don’t want to rent.”

He said the partners were open to other purchase offers and uses, complicated by landmark restrictions. “I think you can maybe ask permission for you to move it to a different location,” he said.

(A spokesperson for the landmarks commission, Zodet Negron, said the agency would need to approve any move of the farmhouse on or off the property, and that it would not be granted lightly. The house was already reoriented in the 1890s, when the street grid was cut and it was turned from facing south to west. She said the agency had no say in the ownership or use of the house and property.)

Now, Dishi said, the house and one lot it sat on were being offered for about $1.5 million, and the rest of the property with the barn for $2.5 million. The original asking price for everything totaled $1 million more, but Dishi said, “Nobody can pay 5 for this thing.”

The property's current for sale sign. The offering initially asked $5 million, but now asks $4 million.
The property’s current for sale sign. The offering initially asked $5 million, but now asks $4 million.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post
In addition to falling into disrepair, vandals have tagged the historic structure.
In addition to falling into disrepair, vandals have tagged the historic structure.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

Dishi, who has been hit by city lawsuits for building violations on other properties and was listed by former Mayor Bill de Blasio as one of the worst landlords — although he is not on the Public Advocate’s current list — voiced doubts about a sale given the landmark restrictions. “We will take as much that we can because we want out,” he said.

An earlier call to the number on the for sale sign reached one of Dishi’s fellow investors, a Brooklyn neighbor who said he lived two blocks away and gave his name only as Isaac. He said “the barn and the property are for sale, not the house.” Asked if they might be sold to a yeshiva, he said: “We don’t know who is a customer. We have no customer yet. A few phone calls, just talk, only talk, nothing happen.” He gave a figure of $250 per square foot which, for 22,000 square feet, equals $5.5 million.

Reached again in November, he repeated that the house was not for sale and that no buyers had come forward.

“Who’s going to buy a landmark?” he said.

Dishi said the house would be fixed up for later sale.

Neighbor Joe Dorfman is among the locals concerned about the property's current condition and ultimate fate.
Neighbor Joe Dorfman is among the locals concerned about the property’s current condition and ultimate fate.
Stefano Giovannini for NY Post

The property’s ultimate outcome has raised concerns among neighbors.

One of them, Joe Dorfman, has contacted the Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso’s office for months with urgent questions about its fate. Dorfman…



Read More: Brooklyn’s Wyckoff-Bennett Homestead faces uncertain future

2022-12-06 22:04:00

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