House Tour: Anthony and Susannah Slide into a Firehouse

House Tour: Anthony and Susannah Slide into a Firehouse

Jill Slater
May 27, 2009
Today, a work in progress
1978 (Source: Anthony Abbate)

Name: Susannah and Anthony
Location: Tompkinsville
Size: 2000 sqft living floor, 2000 sqft rental apt on 2nd floor, 2000 sqft ground floor (garage), 1800 sqft basement in a semi-converted 19th century firehouse
Years lived in: 2 years


Anthony grew up in Staten Island but spent most of his adult life in a small rental apartment the East Village. He never envisioned returning to his native island but when he heard about a firehouse for sale, he couldn't resist. Now that he and his family are settled in, and Anthony's sister moved around the corner into a great old Victorian, their mother cannot contain her joy.



Anthony bought the firehouse from a couple who did the city a favor in the late-1970's by adopting the abandoned building. At the time, the city was in a dire budget crisis and could not afford to maintain many of its public real estate holdings. Over time, the former owners did some very rudimentary improvements to the building that makes the place livable today. For Anthony, a skilled woodworker, it is definitely a work in progress. He has grand plans for renovating the space including removing the tiled ceiling, creating two additional bedrooms in the main living space via walls made of custom shelving and redoing the kitchen. He will make all the custom cabinetry in his woodshop in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

For now, Anthony and his wife and child have an unheard of amount of living space for New York City. Conveniently, they have a lot of friends who are artists and work with large scale canvases. Anthony hosts as an impromptu gallery for their work, rotating exhibits according to what's on loan.

Anthony is in for the long-haul and sees every step of the renovation in terms of sustainability. He wants to use renewable resources such as cork for the kitchen floor, reclaimed woods for the cabinetry, and good condition but formerly owned furniture whenever possible. On the roof, he'll install solar panels, a water retention system for collecting grey water to use in the building and in the garden, and build a greenhouse for growing veggies in the winter. It's a major project to undertake, but Anthony is fearless and, for the time being, impressively calm.

He loves living next door to a scaffolding storage yard because he assumes it will be about 30 years before the lot transforms into a luxury hi-rise that obstructs his view. By then, the mortgage will be paid off and he and his family can move on. Meanwhile, well under the radar is a slow wave of Manhattan and Brooklyn transplants finding their own version of paradise in Staten Island — within a 10 minute walk of the ferry terminal! Stay tuned for tours of Anthony's neighbors and for updates on his progress in the firehouse!

AT Survey
Style: NYC firehouse
Inspiration: Big open spaces
Favorite Element: Harbor and Verrazano Bridge views
Biggest Challenge: Open loft living vs. family space planning
What Friends Say: "Do you have a pole?"
Biggest Embarrassment: No poles (they were all stolen in the 1970's during the bldg's abandoned status)
Proudest DIY: Kitchen and millwork (in production)
Biggest Indulgence: The 14-car garage
Best Advice: One person's trash is another's treasure.
Dream Source: The scrapyard!

Images: (Jill Slater)


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