‘Relief’ as renovations get underway on fire-damaged house in Greenport

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Construction began Feb. 13 on this burned-out house on Second Street in Greenport.

Construction noise generated by workers ripping off a roof and tearing down the walls of a fire-damaged house in Greenport Village isn’t an inconvenience for Rafael and Bunny Ferrer.

The couple lives across from 620 Second St., where the house was heavily damaged in an August 2008 fire, and are happy to see work under way.

While some homeowners would be annoyed with having to listen to wood crashing into a dumpster, Ms. Ferrer said she felt “relief” when the renovation work began on Feb. 13.

“We’re thrilled,” she said. “Many of my neighbors are on vacation but I emailed everybody and they’ve all gotten word that this is finally happening.”

Last summer, Ms. Ferrer and a group of about 10 families living near the burned-out structure created a homeowners association and hired an attorney to pressure the village and the North Fork Housing Alliance, which owns the site, to fix up the blighted property. In January, the village cited the alliance, ordering that it stabilize the structure.

“Our strength in numbers helped get this going,” Ms. Ferrer said. “Three years and seven months it took, but only after our eight months of hard work. We’re really grateful for the support from the community and village trustees.”

Village administrator David Abatelli said now that all the fire-damaged wood has been removed, the alliance’s engineer, architect and builder are evaluating what’s salvageable.

He said the procedure isn’t uncommon when dealing with historic structures. Since the 19th century building lies within the village’s historic district, the village is expecting the house to look like it did before the fire.

“It doesn’t matter how much of the material is old or new, as long as they retain the historical style of the building,” Mr. Abatelli said. In reconstructing the front porch the builder salvaged the damaged posts, columns and brackets in order to replicate them.

“If they go toward a new construction, then they would have to maintain the historic appearance of the house,” he said.

General Builders of Merrick is the renovation contractor. A man who answered the phone there declined to comment, but did say the company was also building a house next door at 618 Second St. The previous home on that site also burned in the 2008 blaze and was subsequently demolished.

Mr. Abatelli said he believed construction could start at 618 Second St. this spring, but maintained that the alliance’s main focus is to finish renovation work at the 620 Second St. house.

The North Fork Housing Alliance declined to comment.

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