Lynn council has harsh words, mercy for Hawthorne

May 9, 2012
By Chris Stevens/The Daily Item

City Council lambasted the owners of Anthony’s Hawthorne for nearly an hour Tuesday calling for the building to be demolished and then gave them one more chance to address the neglected property.

“Demolition was not on the agenda,” said Ward 5 Councilor Brendan Crighton. “Demolition is on the table but we need to take a step back.”

Crighton called for the hearing last month after he raised concerns regarding the building’s structural integrity, contamination found in the parking lot and the Athanas family’s lackadaisical attitude toward the property.

“I am convinced that a good day for the Athanas family is when nothing gets developed on that site,” said Economic Development Industrial Corporation Executive Director James Cowdell. “Have some pride — put some money into landscaping, fix the parking lot, work with the city.”

Cowdell told the council he has been working with the Athanas family since 2007 to redevelop the property. In 2008 the family produced a set of plans that included retail on the bottom levels and housing upstairs, which he said the EDIC happily endorsed but in five years it’s gone no further.

Ward 3 Councilor Darren Cyr said he can’t believe how the family has “disrespected the city of Lynn and the memory of their father.”

The family business, which includes the General Glover House in Marblehead, which has been empty for 20 years, Anthony’s Pier 4 Cafe in Swampscott and the legendary Anthony’s Pier 4 in Boston, is run by the late Anthony Athanas’ four sons.

Inspectional Services Chief Michael Donovan said there have been problems with the property over the years but the most pressing issue now is the stability of the defunct restaurant. In March a section of the building’s facade crashed onto the sidewalk. Donovan said it was clear from the exposed brick that there was water damage and he suspects it extends into the building as well.

“They were given 30 days to address the issue,” Donovan said. “That passed about three weeks ago.”

The next step, he said, is to go to court for permission to enter the building to look at the structural integrity.

“This has all the ingredients for a real good demolition,” said Ward 2 Councilor William Trahant. “I say we file it tomorrow, give them a month and if they don’t come in tear it down.”

Donovan said it would cost the city a minimum $75,000 to $100,000 to demolish the building.

Wig Zamore, who represented the family, who was not in attendance, said nobody should be digging on the property, the parking lot or even Willow Street due to the contamination that leaked from the former Whytes Laundry, a long defunct dry cleaners. He called the chemical levels in the area extraordinarily high.

“It’s not a neighborhood laundry with a leak that we’re talking about,” he said. “It was an industrial laundry that poured barrels and barrels of chemicals into the ground.”

Cowdell said Zamore was ducking the point that the property is idle and dilapidated. He said, according to the Department of Environmental Protection, that the area could be remediated, developed and Whytes sued all at the same time.

“My question is, what advice will you give (the Athanas’) tomorrow?” Trahant asked Zamore. “What is the point of this? … By the way, we spent $28,000 to test for something you already knew was there — we want our check back.”

Cyr called Zamore’s presentation nothing but fluff while City Council President Timothy Phelan called the family’s attitude toward the city disgraceful.

“We should ignore them,” he said. “They set their course, they don’t care.”

Despite several calls to set a public hearing for demolition Crighton, in whose ward the restaurant sits, declined to give in. He said he preferred to think about everything that was said and weigh options before making a decision.

“I don’t disagree with a lot of what my colleagues said,” he said. “But lets use every tool we have and look at all options.”



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