A Kings Point estate that was a precursor to the Gold Coast mansions and possibly inspired the “Great Gatsby” may soon be no more, records and interviews suggest, but what will go up in its place is unclear.
The estate is in the early phases of demolition, public records and interviews show, marking the beginning of a lengthy process for the 16-acre property.
A tree removal permit, valid from Feb. 1 until July 31, allows for the taking down of 70 trees throughout the property, including 30 around the tennis court and garden walls, 12 around the pool, and 11 by a garage and greenhouses.
Demolition began around three weeks ago, according to Lou Valla, the project manager for Premier Building who is managing the demolition process.
“Right now they’re applying for a subdivision, but that’s all I can tell you,” Valla said of the owners on Monday. Of the demolition and subdivision, he added, “It will be a very long process.”
Dr. Faraidoon Golyan, a cardiologist listed as a current property owner in public records, said on Tuesday that he would need to check with fellow owners before discussing plans for the estate.
The estate’s history dates to the 1850s, predating the Gold Coast estates. George Hewlett, whom Hewlett Point is named after, owned the property before it was sold to John Alsop King Jr., whom the Village of Kings Point is named after. Richard Church, of Church & Dwight Co., the creators of Arm and Hammer baking soda, then acquired it at the turn of the last century.
The estate is widely believed to be the inspiration for “The Great Gatsby” because of its special pool, frequent social gatherings the Churches held, its location, and how well the book’s author F. Scott Fitzgerald knew the owners.
Herman Brickman, a union arbitrator, acquired the property in 1951 and used it for tennis, golf, and numerous charity tournaments and events. The Brickmans then formed a family cooperative in the 1970s, before it became the subject of feuds among the Handlers and Brickmans.
Coldwell Banker oversaw the sale of the estate in 2012 for $39.5 million.
Diane Polland, the agent who managed the property’s sale, previously described it as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” to have such a large parcel of property so close to Manhattan and airports featuring “2,000 feet of majestic wrap-around panoramic views.”
Handwritten notes on the demolition plan, submitted by VHB Engineering and Architects to the Village of Kings Point, said the permit “approved for removal of seventy (70) trees only” and does not constitute an approval for “building demolition or ground clearing.”
Notes on a submitted demolition plan by VHB also call on the contractor to “remove and dispose of existing manmade surface features within the limit of the work including buildings, structures, pavements, curbing, fences, utility poles, signs, etc. unless indicated otherwise on the drawings.”
“Contractor shall demolish and remove all existing buildings on site,” the notes go on to say. “Structures shall be stripped down to concrete slabs or basements. All foundations (slabs/basements) shall remain in place for asbestos abatement.”
The existing pool would be removed and “backfilled” under the plan, while the gravel roadway, tennis court, existing greenhouses and gardens would be removed, notes on the demolition plan say.
Much of the estate has been in poor shape in recent years leading up to the planned demolition, according to several notices of violation issued to Brickman Estate at the Point Inc.
In 2003, an accessory structure had “deteriorated to the point where it could not be repaired,” one violation notice said. On July 29, 2016, “multiple buildings” were found to be a “public nuisance, a fire menace and a danger to the health, morals, safety and general welfare of the people of the Village” by Richard Schilt, the previous building inspector for the Village of Kings Point.
A notice was also issued in June and July of last year, ordering the owners to cut grass that exceeded six inches in height.
Great Neck Historical Society President Alice Kasten said that the property had never received landmark status and that given its scope and numerous buildings, it would have needed “to be purchased in order to be maintained.”
Ultimately though, she said, people knew that demolition was likely as soon they heard it was purchased by “a consortium of doctors,” given the shape the estate was in.
“It’s very sad,” Kasten said of the property, describing it as important but difficult to manage. “The land itself is a part of Great Neck history and it would have been nice if there was some way the estate could be maintained.”