BELIEVE IT OR NOT, THIS IS PROGRESS.
The day before Thanksgiving last year, the landmark 1872 French Second Empire style building at 42 Westervelt Avenue, St. George (shown center left) was set on fire by a junkie who wanted revenge.
It seems the crackhead granddaughter of the landlord --- who served as the building's nominal resident manager --- shorted the junkie arsonist $4 in one of their transactions and was refusing to pay up. So for $4, the junkie headed for the back of the house, where he put a match to the clapboard and shingle structure, making a number of people homeless and disrupting the personal and professional lives of many others.
Montgomery and Jenkins and their toddler daughter, Emerson, had to flee their beautifully restored Civil War-era rowhouse next to the landmark crack house --- part of which is shown in the photo above --- eventually setting up temporary quarters in a condo in Travis.
[PHOTO: Tamara Jenkins and Jay Montgomery at the St. George Theater. Staten Island Advance photo by Irving Silverstein.]
Jay, Tamara and Emerson are now back in their landmark home as the structural and restoration work go on around them.
"It's been six months since the fire," Jay told me when I met him on the street the other day, adding how glad he and Tamara were to be home so they could focus on their next production, a "Music Man" revival to be staged at the Snug Harbor Music Hall in July. Anyone familiar with Jay and Tamara's work knows that, in their capable hands, this American musical chestnut will look and sound totally fresh, totally new.
Photo taken today
Only a narrow alley separates Jay and Tamara's house from the ex-crack house next door. That narrow alley made fighting the fire (which was concentrated in that precise area on the top and middle floors) impossible.
Firefighters had no choice but to chop through the mansard roof on Jay and Tamara's house (since restored) to get access and leverage to the fire in the house next door.
After weeks of filling dumpsters, exterior restoration has begun on the cornice, top-floor, right, at 42 Westervelt. The scaffolding went up just this morning and an (obviously) expert restoration carpenter has already set about constructing the frame. A contractor who works full time for the company that owns the property tells me the building has a certificate of occupancy for 5 families. Four 2-bedroom units and one 4-bedroom unit, he says, are planned.
This is work that has been needed for more than 30 years. If not for the building's landmark status, it would simply have been torn down. Now, this building will be saved and made productive again, and Jay and Tamara will be able to stop worrying about the house next door and focus on their family and on the distinguished theater company they're building --- a gift to the Staten Island community. ###