Bulldozing history?

City residents want landmark fifth Street house preserved

A group of residents is trying to save a historic downtown house, that they believe will be demolished, taking a bit of Bayonne’s history along with it.
Baer Hanusz-Rajkowski, who lives one block away on Trask Avenue, said the two-story colonial revival mansion at 124 West Fifth Street, between Trask and Kennedy Boulevard, should be preserved in its current state to keep part of Bayonne’s heritage alive.
“There’s no protection for historic properties in Bayonne,” he said. “In Jersey City, this would be vetted by an historic preservation committee.”
Former residents and people from as far away as Florida and California are also involved with the effort.
“We are concerned about our city’s history and we don’t want it bulldozed by developers,” Hanusz-Rajkowski said.
Gerry Nowicki, a member of the Bayonne Historic Preservation Commission, said on Nov. 25 that no application had been submitted to demolish the structure, and that no plans for the house had gone before city boards.
“We haven’t seen anything yet,” he said. “We know there’s a stir about it, that an online petition was started.”

Truly a city landmark

Nowicki said the house is “truly a city landmark, one which you would give people directions by.”
He described it as a “stately” gray house, with a Gambrel (barn-shaped) roof, and a two-tier porch with Corinthian columns.
It was built in 1898 for Mattie and Emmett Smith, the city surveyor and engineer and also president of the Bayonne Trust Company on Ninth Street, now the site of the Bayonne Community Museum, according to Nowicki.
It was later purchased by a daughter of prominent businessman and City Councilman David LaTourette, Jr. The former LaTourette Hotel at the city’s southern end was at one time a world-class destination for travelers and yachting aficionados.
The house was also owned by the late Edmund Orleanski, a well-known Bayonne doctor, and Brian Campbell, the son of another bank president, who was head of Pamrapo Bank, Nowicki said.
Although the house is “landmark quality,” no group has gone through the process of having it designated a local landmark.

Residents are unhappy

Hanusz-Rajkowski said he has started two petitions, an online one and a hard-copy one, and that between the two of them he has more than 700 signatures opposing any eventual demolition of the house.
“People are not happy,” he said at the Nov. 10 City Council meeting, adding that many residents feel “developers are bulldozing properties and are leaving nothing for the residents.”
At the meeting, one person suggested that the city purchase the Fifth Street house, instead of buying a Broadway lot with Urban Enterprise Zone money that the city was using to spur development on the avenue.
City Council President Sharon Nadrowski explained that UEZ money could not be used to buy a house on Kennedy Boulevard, which is outside of the UEZ zone.


“It’s truly a city landmark, one which you would give people directions by.” – Gerry Nowicki

Discussion at meeting

The Bayonne Historic Preservation Commission was scheduled to take the matter up at its Dec. 1 meeting, according to two of its members. But currently there are no city policies that give the commission the power to implement any decisions it would make, some say.
The building’s owner and the petitioners were asked to attend the meeting, so that some type of compromise could be reached.
“We’re trying to do something to please everybody,” Nowicki said. “It’s the wisdom of Solomon we’re looking to do. We have to see what we can do with it, and what we can’t do with it.”
The site is reportedly owned by developer Mitchell Burakovsky. Burakovsky did not return a phone call from the Bayonne Community News on what his plans were for the house and the several city lots associated with it.

Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.

© 2000, Newspaper Media Group