East Hills residents voice concerns over asbestos in Happy House

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Residents of an East Hills neighborhood surrounding a storied property are taking issue with confirmed and possible asbestos as a result of an environmental impact statement performed for the “Happy House,” part of the historic Mackay estate.

The Mackay estate at 2A Melby Lane is owned by Steven and Wendy Shenfeld, who in 2017 sought to demolish the main house and split the property in half as part of a four-house subdivision. At a Planning Board meeting on Sept. 24, the board reviewed the environmental impact statement ordered in 2017 and submitted in July.

The statement, prepared by Hauppauge-based firm VHB Engineering, Surveying, Landscape Architecture and Geology, mentions a confirmed presence of asbestos in the house’s basement and a possible presence in other building materials, and suggests an asbestos-containing materials (ACM) survey to examine possible further presence of the substance.

“The basement of the structure has asbestos-containing pipe insulation, as did one of the two exterior fuel oil-fired boilers,” the statement said. “Based upon the age of the subject building as constructed circa 1929, there is a potential for building materials and roofing materials to contain asbestos.”

A resident of the Nob Hill neighborhood who asked to remain anonymous said in a brief phone interview that residents “only had a week and a half’s notice” before the Sept. 24 meeting, and that many could not come.

“What’s happening is not fair,” the resident said. “The residents feel no stone should be unturned, as this could put all of Nob Hill in harm’s way.”

The resident added that the neighborhood was concerned about the asbestos content in the 90-year-old house, how demolition would affect the surrounding area, and how the board was not “double-checking” the study.

“We have people with cancer living nearby, pregnant women, children,” the resident said. “We’re not satisfied that these reports are being double checked.”

The Village of East Hills ordered an environmental impact study on the project in 2017, and took control of the estate’s gatehouse in November of that year. Residents, environmentalists and local historians strongly opposed the property’s demolition at planning board hearings that year.

A call to the Shenfelds for comment was not immediately returned, as was an email to East Hills Planning Board President Steven Kafka.

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