Categorized | Express Editorials

Still Too Big (9/5/13)

Posted on 06 September 2013

The more things change, the more they also seem to stay the same.

Since 2005, developers Emil Talel and Michael Maidan have been looking to transform the desolate waterfront parcels that make up 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road into luxury waterfront condominiums.

Zoning hurdles, financial issues and lawsuits have thwarted the pair’s vision, but last week, Talel and Maidan were back in front of the village’s planning board with their first formal plans for the site since 2009 — this time they’re looking to build two dozen residential units on those parcels and in the 2 West Water Street building next door which the developers bought from Bruce Davis, of 1-800-LAWYER fame.

To their credit, Talel and Maidan have brought in architect Frank Greenwald, whose work we genuinely like, to design the building. His vision is not bad, with variable roof heights and different sorts of cladding designed to mimic architectural styles found on Main Street. We also like the idea that the developers are talking about creating a waterfront park that would be accessible to the public. Anything that opens the area up to the public is a good thing.

But here’s the issue — the main building on the waterfront Ferry Road parcels is proposed to be more than 50,000 gross floor area and over three stories in height — and that’s without counting the three units to be constructed in the 1-800-LAWYER building.

While we appreciate Greenwald’s efforts to design this building with a range of roof lines and architectural touches that add interest and break up the massing, which we so despised in the first design, the fact of the matter is at over three stories high, this thing is still just too big.

Always was, always will be—at this size, anyway.

Village residents and the boards have weighed in quite clearly on this already. So we’re dismayed to see the developers come forward with a new plan that is substantially unchanged from what we’ve seen before — other than the improved facade.

It’s the same three stories, the same square footage – actually more, since they now have the addition of the building next door to utilize.

Yes, the whole thing has been moved a bit to protect the viewshed from the post office, and yes, the architectural aspects are much improved. But the sheer size of the project shows us that nothing was learned during the last process. The community was vocal about the fact a large condo project was not something they wanted. We already have one of those — the Bulova development, otherwise known as The Watchcase. The differences between the two projects are numerous, but chief among them is that the Bulova building existed and was not new construction. Rather it was a repurposing of a building that was literally crumbling before our eyes in the heart of Sag Harbor. Ferry Road is a blighted property that needs to be dealt with — but three stories?

The other thing that has us mightily concerned is what might happen now that 2 West Water Street has entered the picture. Zoning dictates nine units are allowed at 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road. But the developers suggested last week they are looking to take the long abandoned 14 condo credits that once existed in the 2 West Water Street development (before it became a private residence) and transfer them to the Ferry Road units perhaps through a merger of the parcels — allowing the number of condos to balloon to 20. The precedent this kind of transfer would set is concerning to say the least.

With that kind of density, we’re also concerned about the long-term impact of the structure — and its underground garage — on issues such as drainage (which we know is a nightmare based on what we saw in the village earlier this week) and water quality.

While we are not advocates for turning the 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road parcels into village parkland—the village has much larger financial fish to fry at the moment—and do believe this blighted part of the village is in need of a little rehabilitation, we want to see a vision that is in keeping with what is truly appropriate for our community.

Developers have a right to develop property, but not outside of the village code unless a zoning board of appeals deems the benefit to the applicant is not outweighed by the detriment to the community. As proposed, this project is outside the bounds of the code aimed to protect us as a village. And at this size, we believe it would be a significant detriment to Sag Harbor.

Time to head back to the drawing board …

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