On 19th street and Kennedy Boulevard sits The Nest, a house built in 1918 by Paul Ganzinotti. According to one previous owner, Kevin McMullan, who owned the house for 20 years, most of the house’s original features are still intact.
But the house’s days may be numbered.
The Nest was recently bought by Dr. Demetrios Econopouly, a podiatrist based in North Bergen. According to variance applications on public record in the Union City clerk’s office,
Econopouly plans to demolish The Nest along with an adjacent two story commercial building to construct a four story, 18-unit, multi-family residential building. The new construction is being designed by architect Manuel J. Pereiras.
Econopouly has applied for a number of zoning variances for the new construction, which means that some of his plans diverge from zoning rules in the area. For example, Econopouly applied for a variance to have four stories instead of the three permitted by code. Econopouly also applied for a variance to supply 22 parking spaces instead of the 34 required for a building of the size he is planning.
When called by The Reporter, Econopouly declined to comment on his plans.
These plans have caused a stir in the community. Some people, especially those who have lived in the neighborhood for a long time or who know the history of the house, are not happy about the plans to replace it. They’ve created a petition on change.org titled “Save ‘The Nest,’ a unique, historic house.” It can be found at https://www.change.org/p/melissa-murray-mutch-save-the-nest-a-unique-historic-house.
The petition asks Mayor Brian Stack and the Zoning Board of Adjustment not to allow for the demolition of the house. As of last week, the petition had been signed by almost 900 people.
Although the house has almost a century of history, it’s not a National or State Historic Landmark.
“The home at 1900 Kennedy Boulevard needs to be protected and landmarked. It is an important piece of architecture.” – Kathleen Fay
The Zoning Board of Adjustment will meet on Sept. 14 at 6:30 to decide on the variances.
Concerned residents plan to attend to show their support for the continuing existence of the house.
Kathleen Fay, a resident of Union City for her whole life, expressed her feelings that “the home at 1900 Kennedy Boulevard needs to be protected and landmarked. It is an important piece of architecture.”
In a phone interview, Linda Mastrofilippo, one of the previous owners, spoke of some of the history of the house. According to her, Ganzinotti built the house in 1918. After he died, he left it to his secretary and her husband, Ann and Steve Jugan, from whom Mastrofilippo bought it in the 1980s. She lived in The Nest with her family for about four years.
“We just loved it,” Mastrofilippo said. “The pocket door and the attention to detail, the stained glass… the wainscoting in the dining room… it was really, really outstanding… and the bathroom with the big stained glass window… not to mention the elevator.”
According to McMullan, the elevator is accordion style and still works. He said in a phone interview that it was installed in the 1940s, when Mrs. Ganzinotti could no longer get up and down the stairs.
McMullan spoke about other historical aspects of the house.
“The grand staircase is imported mahogany from Germany with bronze statuettes…on the newel posts,” he said. The statues are labeled “par J.-B. Germain, sculptor,” presumably meaning Jean-Baptiste Germain. Germain was a French artist who worked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
According to Mastrofilippo, “A lot of the fixtures, most of those beautifully done features in the house, were imports from France.”
McMullan reflected on the house, saying, “Everybody I know who has owned this house has absolutely loved living here and everybody who’s passed through these doors, they’ve been amazed. It kind of evokes an emotion, I think, when you walk into a house that’s like this. They just don’t build them anymore.”