Fieldston locals love their little pond — Indian Pond, that is — a place families could set their pet turtles and fish free back in the 1970s, and to this day a place of serenity and natural beauty. An oasis in an otherwise bustling city.
It makes sense, then, that over the years, as natural features and open space in the area have diminished, locals have become increasingly vigilant about protecting what’s left.
So it should be only good news then that a controversial proposal to develop 1.3 acres overlooking the pond at 4680 Fieldston Road appears to be dead, as the property is up for sale.
The owners — brothers Matthew, Edward and Marshall Bloomfield — shared with the Landmarks Preservation Commission in 2015 their plans to divide and build three new houses on the site, a proposal that met with deep public disapproval. Fieldston is known for its lack of density in a city considered the nation’s most dense. Even landmark commission members were concerned not only about precedent, but how the design of the property would relate to the architectural character of the surrounding historic district.
The Bloomfields revised and scaled down their plan and presented it again in 2016, but still, they couldn’t get past the landmarks commission.
Now, the whole property and an existing house at 4680 Fieldston is on the market, said broker Scott Kriger of Halstead Property, for a listing price of $5.9 million.
“My understanding is there has been no further action on the part of Landmarks Preservation Commission because the Bloomfields haven’t followed through with any additional revisions or changes or applications,” said Jeff Mueller, president of the Fieldston Property Owners Association. “So it would appear that the Bloomfields are giving up on their efforts to develop those parcels.”
Given the protracted process of seeking approval from city agencies — Mueller said his association had fought the proposal since “at least October” 2014 — as well as the Bloomfields’ presumably having spent significant resources on lawyers and lobbyists, Mueller suspects the family may have wanted out.
“Presumably they’re looking for an exit strategy that maximizes their return on the property,” he said, “and that is to unload it without pursuing the landmarks approval process.”
Marshall Bloomfield did not return repeated requests for comment. A representative said Bloomfield was ill and could not be reached.
But even fears of someone else stepping in and picking up where the Bloomfields left off have abated. Halstead’s listing heavily features the existing century-old Tudor Revival mansion, and talks about the adjoining lots more in passing.
“They’re representing that there are three lots that are buildable, but the reality, as I understand it, is that if the property is sold, any purchaser will have to reinitiate approval of Landmarks and city planning — and that is a multi-year process, and will be met with the strong and vociferous opposition from our community,” Mueller said.
“We will not let this issue die, and we’ll continue to strongly oppose any development of those lots, whether it’s the Bloomfields who attempt to develop them, or any other subsequent purchaser.”
Still, Mueller isn’t breathing a sigh of relief just yet.
“Obviously, time is an ally for us,” he said.
“The longer they fail to pursue this, the less likely the developments will proceed or be successful. (But) I won’t be relieved until we know what happens with that property.”
Charles Moerdler, chair of Community Board 8’s land use committee, wasn’t aware the property was for sale until told by a reporter, but expressed delight in hearing the news, calling the pond “the crown jewel” of the neighborhood.
“That’s a major step forward in preserving the character of the community,” Moerdler said, “provided that the next purchaser sticks to that.
“It is an issue that we feel very strongly about as a community board — namely, this area is a treasure for the community and it is, just like (the Special Natural Area District), a treasure that we will continue to strive to enforce and protect.”
Maya Kriet, Halstead’s communications director, said several potential buyers have expressed interest in the property, noting it’s an estate sale, and that it would “likely appeal to a buyer seeking privacy.”
Bert Trebach, of the local real estate brokerage firm Trebach Realty — who is not involved in the current marketing of the property — has fond memories of Indian Pond stretching back decades.
“From time to time there would be ducks or geese in the pond, and we would watch them,” Trebach said. “It’s just beautiful. When we’re selling houses, we’ll drive people by and show them that there’s a pond in Fieldston, and how special it is. It’s a very strong plus for the area. “You don’t want to ruin places, like where they built these McMansions in Brooklyn. That’s the reason for the landmarking.”