Neighbors mourn 15 Sherman Place Demolished ‘Krempa Manor’ house spurs Heights residents to seek historic district

Fifteen Sherman Place was a house that stood on its street for about 130 years. It was known as the “Krempa Manor,” named for the family who built it and owned it until a few years ago.

A week ago Friday, a crew from the Secaucus-based M & A Demolition Company tore down the wood-frame Victorian-style three-family building in only a few hours.

But what rose from the ruins was the anger of neighbors who saw the demolition as representative of problems affecting the city’s Heights section and all of Jersey City.

“It’s like the Wild, Wild West in this city. The mayor and the City Council are not watching the store, and it’s anything goes,” said Paul Amatuzzo, a Sherman Place resident.

Some said that the area from Sherman Place to Pershing Field should be designated a historic district, which would prevent such demolition. There are other historic districts in the city, like Hamilton Park, Van Vorst Park and Harsimus Cove, where old homes have been saved from the wrecking ball.15 Sherman Place

It was the morning of Jan. 20 when residents started gathering outside 15 Sherman Place, looking at a backhoe ready to tear down the Victorian home. Some had heard about the demolition after a neighbor inquired about demolition equipment entering the yard area a few days before.

According to eyewitnesses, by 7 a.m., the demolition was going forward. After a few hours, demolition stopped when residents went to State Superior Court seeking an injunction to check if there were proper permits for the action.

By early afternoon, the court found that permits were in order, and the demolition resumed again. But not before tensions over the matter surfaced.

Louis Selmi, who lives with his wife and daughter next door at 17 Sherman, found himself in a shouting match with Michael Ambrosio, the head of the M & A Demolition.

“I didn’t get home until after 5 p.m., but based on what wife told me and the damage that I saw to the side of my house, I was upset and went up to [Ambrosio] to complain,” said Selmi. “He gets into my face as if I have a problem, and says to me ‘S-t happens’ “.

Selmi and his wife, Elena, also complained that they did not receive letters from the owner of the house stating that there would be demolition.

Other residents also said an individual who identified himself as a city employee but did not provide his name, started cursing them out and trying to chase them away.

Ambrosio defended himself in a telephone interview last week, saying that some of the residents were “nasty” and some were arguing with him while he was trying to be a “nice guy.”

“I have a job, I have a contract,” he said. “If you want to stop the demolition, you don’t wait until it is actually happening. You do it way beforehand.” The aftermath The day after the demolition, the Selmis looked at the pile of wood that was sitting next to their house and mourned. They were joined by neighbors.

Nanette Jacobs, who lives at 76 Sherman, placed a bouquet of flowers near the rubble.

The residents of Sherman Place have a particular affinity for not only the history of their block but the history of the city as well.

Two residents, Jacobs and Carolyn Katz, won awards from the Jersey City Landmarks Conservancy in 2004 for the preservation of their homes. The block is also the home of other local preservationists such Colin Egan and Patty Giordan of the Friends of the Loews’ Theater volunteer group, and Paul Amatuzzo, a commissioner with the Jersey City Historic Preservation Commission.

Margo Hammond, another Sherman Place resident, recently formed a new city Shade Tree Commission, working to save many of the city’s oldest trees from being cut down.

Amatuzzo was incensed at what took place.

He walked around the perimeter of 15 Sherman Place with the Selmis and some other neighbors, peeking through the fence and exclaiming that the owner deserves “hell” for the demolition of the house.

The owner, according to city tax records, was listed as 16 Hopkins LLC with an address of 2191 Morris Ave. in Union.

Calls to 16 Hopkins LLC was not returned last week.

The residents said they’d heard rumors that 15 Sherman Place may become the site of two newer homes. Initial steps for a district The group of neighbors has vowed to try to make the block a historic district.

At least 20 Sherman Place residents had attended a meeting of the city’s Historic Preservation Commission on Jan. 18 to present a case for their block and the area beyond to become a historic district. The commission formed a committee to study the possibility.

The residents have complained about new homes being built all around the Heights, which is the area high on the Palisades west of Hoboken and south of Union City. They describe the new homes as “candy-colored monstrosities” that are built at a cost of $100,000 to $125,000 and sold for at least four times the amount.

While historic districts do not always prevent every change to a building, they require an explanation in front of a historic commission from property owners and developers before they make noticeable changes.

One of the attendees at the Jan. 18 meeting was Egan, who said a few days after the meeting and the subsequent demolition that the action served as wakeup call.

“Given my background, you make certain assumptions that the house will stay up, that somehow it won’t be demolished,” said Egan. “And then you go about your work, which in my case ironically is saving a historic theater, and before you know it, the house is demolished right in front of your eyes. Just can’t allow that to happen ever again.” Ricardo Kaulessar can be reached at


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