Fort #2

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    Thomas Casey
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    Riverdle press

    What flew at old site, cannon balls or tennis balls?
    Posted August 17, 2011

    By Adam Wisnieski
    Maybe the stone buried under an empty plot of land in Spuyten Duyvil is just the remains of a tennis club, but maybe it is a Revolutionary War fort.

    Last week, The Press reported that Riverdalian Steven Scher believes the latter, which generated some interest from members of the community closely related to the land.

    Mr. Scher, local history buff and Century resident, recently dug in the empty lot near Fairfield Avenue between West 227th and West 230th streets and thought he found a piece of Fort Number Two, one of eight Revolutionary War forts in the Bronx.

    Hours after a story about his findings hit newsstands, two residents contacted the paper with very different thoughts about what Mr. Scher found.

    The owner of the property and president of the Riverdale Tennis Club, Martin Zelnik, said Ms. Scher’s stone was simply a piece of the now-defunct Nipnichsen Tennis Club and not a fort at all.

    He said what Mr. Scher found was probably a piece of stonework from the club, which was razed in the mid to late 1960s. The stone remnants were bulldozed and left on the lot, he said.

    But Peter Ostrander, longtime president of the Kingsbridge Historical Society, also contacted the paper to say he thinks Mr. Scher hit the historical jackpot. He said he surveyed the area in the 1980s with an archaeologist and two professors from Fordham University and they, too, determined it was the site of Fort Number Two.

    Mr. Ostrand said he does not know for sure that the stone Mr. Scher found was part of the fort, but that his research indicates that Fort Number Two, largely made of earth, once stood there.

    “We had no doubt we got the right spot,” Mr. Ostrander said.

    Either way, Mr. Zelnik, a local architect, owns the property and it has belonged to his family since 1959. Small pieces of it have been developed into houses, but the lot remains largely undeveloped. Mr. Zelnik said his father, also an architect, tried to build an apartment building on the spot, but the community opposed it and the plan never came to fruition.

    Then in 1991, the Dinkins Administration planned to build a homeless shelter on the site but faced more community opposition.

    He said he has no plans for the future of the land, but that a local school, which he would not name, has shown interest in buying it to build tennis courts. Or, he said, he might build more houses on the land, but probably not in the current economic climate.

    And despite his difference of opinion with Mr. Scher, who would like the land turned into a historical spot, Mr.  Zelink said he would not object to building a park there, as long as the city paid him for it.

    “If I had a dream I would love to see the Parks Department take that and make it into a park,” Mr. Zelnik said.

     

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