The Fort Lee Historic Site, Structure, Cultural & Landmark Committee, a committee within The Fort Lee Historical Society created by ordinance by the Mayor and Council of Fort Lee, submitted an advisory letter to the Zoning Board of Adjustment requesting that the board not grant the variances required by the developer to demolish 'Rambo's Saloon' located at 2423 First Street.
According to the Historical Society executive board, that unamimously voted in support of this letter, the Historic Site committee is charged by the Mayor and Council with the responsibility to advise the Zoning Board of the historic significance of any property that is in jeopardy of being demolished.
Because of its prominent role as a site location in the early film industry that once dominated Fort Lee, Rambo's Saloon is listed on the Bergen County Register of Historic Buildings. However, according to Tom Meyers, founder and Executive Director of the Fort Lee Film Commission and founder of The Fort Lee Historic Committee and member of The Fort Lee Historical Society, that designation offers no real protection from demolition.
"Despite its designation as an historical building on the County's register, the only way that building could have been preserved is through more stringent local zoning laws," Meyers said.
The developer, Joseph Romano, appeared before the Zoning Board Tuesday seeking height, side and back yard variances to demolish the existing structure and replace it with a duplex. The Zoning Board is in the process of reviewing the site plans Romano submitted and the hearing will continue at the April 23 meeting of the Zoning Board.
In their letter to the Zoning Board, the Committee cites that the structure being considered for demolition was built in 1867, was one of the most important film sites in the early years of the film industry, and argues that there is no existing structure left in Fort Lee of similar age or significant importance to film history.
The Fort Lee Historical Society has created a petition to try and save the building from demolition. The petition, created by Historical Society President Donna Brennan, will be delivered to both the Mayor and Council and the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
The next meeting of the Zoning Board is April 23 at 7:30 p.m. in the council chambers of Borough Hall. This application, along with the letter submitted by the Historic Site, Structure, Cultural & Landmark Committee, will be discussed at this meeting.