Cinema Sign is the Icon, Not the Building

Posted on 26 November 2008

The “Sag Harbor” sign located on the Sag Harbor Cinema is what the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board would like to see preserved as a historic landmark, not the whole building or its façade as was discussed at a village board of trustees meeting last week.

On Monday, November 24, the ARB adopted a new resolution to see the Sag Harbor Cinema sign protected as a landmark, and clarified the reasons the board feels the sign is worthy of such a distinction.

The board’s chairman, Cee Scott Brown, also defended himself against Sag Harbor Cinema owner Gerald Mallow’s accusations last week that Brown stood to benefit from the designation in his position as a real estate broker.

At the request of Mayor Greg Ferraris, the ARB adopted a new resolution on the landmark designation, noting the sign, not the building, was what it would like to see protected. In August, the board had adopted a previous resolution seeking a landmark designation for the building’s façade.

The matter was before the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees last week, during which Mallow’s attorney contested the concept on several levels, arguing the ARB had not specifically explained why it would want the designation. She also charged there was a possible conflict of interest in Brown introducing and voting on a resolution as he is vice president of Corcoran Real Estate Group, which has the sole listing, she said, for the $12 million Mallow is seeking in the sale of the cinema.

Mallow has owned the theatre for 30 years, and also cited the controversy regarding his removal of the Sag Harbor Cinema sign four years ago as part of the impetus for his reasoning to oppose landmark designation for the façade. Mallow had intended to replace the sign, but some members of the community spearheaded an effort to have a replica of the sign created instead, expressing concerns the sign Mallow intended for the cinema was too different from the iconic art deco sign that had lit Main Street for years. Residents of Sag Harbor ultimately paid for the new sign, which adorns the cinema façade today.

On Monday, in its new resolution, the board clarified that the sign “Sag Harbor” on the façade of the Sag Harbor Cinema “is likely the most well known image of special historical value, effectively an icon” in the village business district. The board added that it finds the sign “Sag Harbor” to be “unique and certainly one-of-a-kind in this community,” and representative of “an architectural style which, familiar to residents, visitors and passersby, is especially representative of the historic character of the Village Business zoning district.”

“The board finds and concludes that the failure to cause the designation of the sign ‘Sag Harbor’ on the façade of the Sag Harbor Cinema would be a loss of a landmark for the property owner and the community, a loss that Article 15 of the village code was enacted to prevent,” ends the resolution.

Brown vehemently denied his position at Corcoran creates a conflict of interest, noting that despite statements made by Mallow and his attorney, Corcoran is not the only real estate firm listing the property. Rather it is an open listing, available to any one who can sell the property at its requested $12 million price tag.

Brown added that Gale Conetta, not himself, is the broker who would handle the sale on Corcoran’s behalf and he personally has no intention of selling the building.

Brown also noted that Mallow and his own attorney had argued in front of the board of trustees that designating the façade a landmark would devalue the property.

“It was then brought up that if the landmark was a detriment to the building, I would certainly be working against myself,” noted Brown.

The board of trustees is expected to revisit the matter at its next meeting on Tuesday, December 9 at 6 p.m. The next historic preservation and architectural review board meeting is on Thursday, December 11. 

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