There is much to report from last night's Common Council meeting, and Gossips will retell the events in multiple posts, presented in more or less chronological order, beginning with the resolution to recognize 241 Columbia Street as a local landmark.
Before the vote was taken, Victoria Milne, the building's owner, made an appeal to the Council not to approve the designation. As she has before, Milne complained that no one had consulted her when the campaign to designate the building began, inspired by the false belief that the building was in danger of imminent demolition. She described what had happened as an "ambush" and its unfolding as a "conspiracy" and declared that she did not "want to be governed by historic preservation."
Once again, she proposed an alternative to designation: a plaque that would recount the building's history as the original house of worship for Shiloh Baptist Church. She claimed the plaque would tell the African American community's story, whereas "a body of white people with control over mullions and the facade" would not. She also called it "galling" that the building had been owned by the City, and nothing had been done to preserve it. (The building was owned by the City for seven months--from May to December in 2017--after it had been seized for nonpayment of property taxes.)
When Milne finished her appeal, Council president Tom DePietro noted that she had not made "a formal request to deny the application." Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward) asked Milne if she would "let Reverend Cross get his church back." (Former Second Ward supervisor Ed Cross rented the church building for his Endless Love Temple congregation for eight years, from 2009 until 2017, when it was foreclosed on by the City.) Milne answered Garriga: "That's not my plan." Alderman Dominic Merante (Fifth Ward) asked if she knew the history of the building when she purchased it. Milne said she knew it had been a Masonic Lodge and the previous owner (who bought it for the minimum bid in the tax auction) had gutted it and had other plans for it. When Merante mentioned historic preservation tax credits, Milne said she knew nothing about them because she has never managed a historic building.
When the vote was finally taken, the Council voted unanimously to approve the designation. Alderman Eileen Halloran (Fifth Ward) was absent from the meeting.
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