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Newark approves demolition of building where gangster was slain

by Guy Sterling/The Star-Ledger
Wednesday October 01, 2008

The building in Newark that once housed a restaurant where mobster Dutch Schultz was gunned down was approved for demolition tonight.

In a vote without dissent, the Newark Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission voted to allow new owner Miles Berger to knock down the building at 12 E. Park St. to make way for additional parking.

Voting in favor of the proposal were commissioners Robert Hartman, Diane Scotland, Gwen Moten, Richard Grossklaus and Anthonyette Hunter.

Commissioner Harrison Snell abstained, while David Abramson, commission chairman, recused himself because he occupies an office in the nearby Berger-owned Military Park Building.

Berger said demolition of the old Palace Chop House, where Schultz and three others were killed on Oct. 23, 1935, in one of America's most notorious mob hits, will add 12 to 14 parking spaces for tenants at the Military Park Building.

He also offered to install a plaque on the sidewalk in front of the building commemorating Schultz's slaying and said he may erect a garage on the site someday.

"There's no one in the city who recognizes the importance of historic buildings more than I do," Berger told the commission at its monthly meeting in City Hall.

He said he helped get the nearby Griffith, Hahne's and Firemen's Fund Insurance Co. buildings in downtown Newark placed on the state and national registers of historic places.

Berger said he tried to do the same for the Robert Treat Hotel that he also owns but failed, saying it has far greater historic value than the spot where a "bootlegger and a criminal" was killed.

A New Yorker, Schultz stayed at the Robert Treat during a self-imposed exile in Newark and used it as a headquarters to run his racketeering operation. He was 33 when he died.

In his presentation on behalf of Berger, Newark architect William Mikesell said he was mistaken in his original research that maintained the building sitting on the property today was not the same structure in which Schultz was killed. But he said the building was "just a shell of the structure that was there."

Ulana Zakalak, a historic preservationist Berger retained, said the building would need architectural significance to contribute to the Military Park Historic District in which it is situated. It was not enough for Schultz to have been slain in the building, she added.

Zakalak researched the backgrounds of all of the buildings in the area when Military Park was placed on the historic register in 2003. The building at 12 E. Park St. was judged "non-contributing."

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