The small waterfront bungalow in Staten Island, New York that Dorothy Day occupied late in life was razed in February to make way for a subdivision of million dollar homes. The act stunned the Landmarks Preservation Commission who were only days away from formally nominating the site for historic preservation and believed it had a nonaggression pact with the developer, John DiScala.
According to The New York Times, DiScala and the landmarks commission struck a deal in 1999 in which DiScala agreed to donate Day’s cottage and two other houses to a non-profit foundation that would oversee their preservation. The commission would, in turn, support DiScala in securing city permits for the subdivision.
However, DiScala became increasingly frustrated with the pace of his development and complications surrounding the Friends of the Dorothy Day Cottages project. At a meeting between DiScala and a representative of Friends of the Dorothy Day Cottages, the developer rejected several of the foundation’s requests, such as including visitors parking and having a caretaker live on the property. In January DiScala denied the landmarks commission access to the property to take measurements, the final step before scheduling a hearing on designating the property a landmark.
On February 6, the Staten Island office of the Department of Buildings received an application to demolish three more cottages. Three days later the landmarks commission received a call that the Dorothy Day cottage was in the process of being demolished.
The City Department of Investigation is conducting an inquiry into the possibility that the application for the permit to demolish the buildings may have been doctored.
Day, who died in 1980, founded the Catholic Worker movement and was famous for her pacifism. Of Irish Presbyterian heritage she was raised in Chicago and converted to Catholicism when she was thirty. She is currently being considered for canonization. ♦