ROCHELLE PARK TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – The future of a 19th Century mansion is dividing Rochelle Park Township.
Should the landmark be saved, even though it celebrates a time when slavery was legal? Or should it be auctioned off?
Residents are using Facebook to attract support for their positions.
The historic spot is Susan Iacobucci’s second home.
“I know every bit of it,” she said. “It’s one of the most ornate architectural Italianate styles in the Bergen County area.
But the more-than-150-year-old mansion doesn’t belong to her. The Captain William Tyson House is owned by the Rochelle Park Township.
“It is like someone walked out of this house in 1860 and never came back,” said Susan Lacobucci, secretary of the Rochelle Park Historical Society.
Using surplus tax dollars, residents say the town bought the home for $600,000 three years ago – without their consent. Now after backlash and new elected officials in office, the town is looking to auction off the mansion and give money back to the taxpayers.
But Iacobucci won’t let the home go that easy.
“We’re trying to maybe start a 501c3 and sell some rights to the house,” she said.
She’s afraid the mansion will get torn down if it’s sold. So the historical society has set up a Facebook page and collected 800 signatures from neighbors to save it.
Other residents, though, are fighting for the opposite outcome.
“My main concern from day one was that they used taxpayer funds to purchase a house,” resident Bill Coleman said.
The Facebook page Rochelle Park Taxpayers United Against Irresponsible Spending was set up to make sure the city gets rid of the mansion, especially in the wake of new allegations.
While going through old newspapers online, Bob Hanes discovered the man who built the home, Cpt. William Tyson, was involved in slave trafficking. The sea captain was never arrested for it, but residents say the claims are too big to ignore.
“I was horrified, I was shocked,” Hanes said. “You want to keep it as a museum, that’s fine. Get it off the town’s tax rolls.”
As for the other side, they believe the house shouldn’t be defined by who built it, but how it was able to withstand time.
CBS2 reached out to the mayor and other elected Rochelle Park officials. No one wanted to comment on the matter.
The mansion could be auctioned off as early as next month.