The renovation and restoration of the former Bulova Watchcase Factory in the heart Sag Harbor is likely the largest construction project in village history. For planning board chairman, Neil Slevin, it was expected the village would have to work with residents, businesses and the developers, Cape Advisors, to wrangle some of the headaches inherently caused by such large scale construction.
However, not even Slevin anticipated those headaches would be felt so early in the building project’s timeline.
On Tuesday night, at the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, a small group of residents and business owners approached the board with concerns over the impact the Bulova project was having on their businesses and lives.
The Bulova Watchcase Factory restoration and redevelopment is for a 65-unit luxury apartment building in the historic factory building and seven townhouses, which will contain 16 of the units. A recreation center, with indoor pool, spa and an underground parking facility is also planned for the project.
Cape Advisors earned village approval for the project over three years ago, but just recently began clearing the site and erecting a construction fence in anticipation of groundbreaking after earning a new partner in Deutsche Bank this fall.
For Dolores Fenn, a Main Street resident whose house backs onto Church Street, the construction fence that stretches out on the street has made it difficult for her to get her car out of her garage.
On Tuesday night, Fenn said she was moving and was worried a moving van will not be able to access her home.
Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said that the fence was there for residents’ safety, but Fenn said she felt neighboring property owners should have been personally informed about some the changes taking place during construction.
“It has inconvenienced a lot of people,” she said.
Gilbride agreed all neighbors should have been personally contacted, and noted that the village has created a board led by Slevin to work with Cape Advisors on any issues that come up during construction.
“If someone got missed and we are not aware, call the village clerk tomorrow morning and we will get your number to Neil and if you have a complaint we will handle it,” said Gilbride.
Sharone Einhorn, the co-owner of Ruby Beets antiques and home furnishing store on Washington Street, said she was concerned about the closure of parking on Church Street and four parking stalls on Washington Street.
“We will not be able to receive deliveries and clients will not be able to put things in the cars if they cannot park nearby,” said Einhorn.
She asked the board consider opening Church Street back up for parking in the summer.
“Did you consider the small businesses in Sag Harbor and how this would impact them,” asked Einhorn.
She added the parking problem is compounded by the fact that the municipal lot on Washington and Division streets has become a seven-day-a-week lot, which has translated to people leaving their cars there for days on end.
On Wednesday morning, Einhorn said she would like to see that lot converted into two-hour parking, so that clients have somewhere to park nearby.
Einhorn also questioned how she, and the two other furniture stores on Washington Street, would be able to accept deliveries. Currently, when there is not parking available on Washington Street, as is often the case, trucks double park on Church Street to make their deliveries. Now, said Einhorn, getting deliveries will be difficult at best.
Deputy Mayor Tim Culver acknowledged the village could work to solve some of these issues, but said the village has been diligent in exploring all issues related to construction at Bulova.
“I think we did think about local businesses,” he said. “And the Chamber of Commerce was an advocate for this project and people in general thought it would be a good thing for business in Sag Harbor.”
Nada Barry, owner of the Wharf Shop and longtime member of the Chamber of Commerce, said that with Stella Maris Regional School now closed there is more parking near Division Street. Additional parking, some 80 spaces, added Barry, has also been procured at the former National Grid gas ball property.
On Wednesday, project manager David Kronman said that all of the construction workers at Bulova are currently parking on-site and not in public parking spaces around Sag Harbor.
However, when it is needed, Kronman said his firm has secured parking spaces at St. Andrews Church, Reid Brothers on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike and at Baron’s Cove.
Kronman, who by late Wednesday morning had already set up meetings with both Einhorn and Fenn, said that working with neighbors was a top priority. His firm had already worked with Sage Street Antiques owner Eliza Warner, he said, to ensure her business had parking spaces on Sage Street when it is open on the weekends.
“There is absolutely a willingness on our part to sit down and solve any problems that arise and make this as painless as possible on everyone,” said Kronman Wednesday morning. “We want to work with all of our neighbors and be creative in coming up with solutions to issues as they arise.”