The Truth About Baxter House


This year many nasty comments and insults were directed at the owner of the Baxter House in newspaper articles, letters to the editor and at village meetings. I am ashamed of the lynch mob mentality being displayed by my community. I feel that some background is needed to inform people that she is not the villain in this situation.

The village had an opportunity to buy the Baxter House but only made a halfhearted effort. There was a special meeting held sometime after the house was put up for sale to inform the residents of the village’s interest in purchasing it for our village hall.

On announcing the asking price of $990,000, the room full of residents instantly let out with a loud “No.”

The asking price was given because no one bothered to look at the house and try to negotiate a better price with the owner. Then a suggestion was made to rent it out for weddings and other affairs to help support the purchase. This too was met with an equally loud “No” response. Really, how could anyone think that this would appeal to the residents? Who would want a catering hall in our village?

Next, the seller came before the board saying what a treasure the house was and how proud he was to be its steward and said he was in favor of landmarking. Now you had a willing owner. That was the time to landmark. Not ambushing an unsuspecting buyer two years later.

Is it true that landmarking was not done at that time because the owner threatened to sue and the village backed off? By not doing it then he was able to conceal this information from prospective buyers.

Then two years after the house was purchased, the new owner, against her objections, was blindsided with landmarking.

The Baxter House is the namesake of our village, a village of approximately 242 households and 1,000 residents, and should be the responsibility of all the residents. Who decided that the new owner should be anointed its sole savior?

I started attending village meetings soon after moving into Baxter Estates. In all these years, the board always worked to help the residents, myself included. To put such a financial burden on this owner when the board passed on the opportunity to buy the house is unconscionable. And to be fair to this board I know you inherited this situation and you now have to deal with it.

I read in the Port Washington News “the Cow Neck Peninsula Historical Society once brought up the idea of crowdfunding litigation” and people are now supporting this. In comments made in the papers this year, people stated that the residents of Baxter Estates, Port Washington and all across Long Island want to save this house. Well, except the residents of Baxter Estates who voted against the purchase. There are a lot of loud angry voices who want their pound of flesh but don’t want to put any skin in the game.

So rather than using crowdfunding negatively in this effort for litigation to punish the owner, how about using it positively to purchase the house to turn it into a museum or sell it to someone who is actually looking to buy an old house to restore and stop torturing the owner. Remember, it was landmarked against her objections two years after she purchased it. The Cow Neck Peninsula Society, led by Mr. Bain, their president, had much to say about instructing the village on what to do with the Baxter House. Perhaps he will step up to manage the museum.

Also, in the Port Washington Times, someone asked about eminent domain. That is an excellent idea. At least with it “the fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires the government to compensate the owner of property taken by eminent domain, stating “nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” State constitutions contain similar provisions requiring that the property owner receive just compensation for the property taken.” (source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Oh wait, I guess it’s easier to landmark. That way it takes away control of the property. And without control the owner really doesn’t own it, except for the mortgage and taxes. And better yet it doesn’t require just compensation.

The owner was accused of not acting morally and ethically. Perhaps she was the wrong one to be accused of this. She was also accused of being uncooperative, difficult and not motivated among other things. How would you react to having your home taken away from you?

For the record, I am not against landmarking, just the way it was done. I am willing to make a donation to purchase but not to litigate. Also, I do not know Ms. Wu nor have we ever met. I would feel this way about anyone who was victimized in this way.

—Jim Sacrestano