A Plea to Save a Building

Posted on 15 June 2011

125 Main St

Preservationists demand salvation of historic building. Holbrook photo

By Kathryn G. Menu

On Tuesday night, Save Sag Harbor Board member and attorney Susan Mead, backed by the president of the Sag Harbor Historical Society, implored the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees to revisit a license agreement it has given to James Giorgio.

The agreement would allow Giorgio to excavate three-feet of village owned soil in front of his 125 Main Street building to accommodate a new street level retail location. It comes in the wake of proposed plans to demolish and rebuild the historic building after Giorgio discovered the structure may be too far gone to restore as planned.

Mead said she would like the village, through its planning board, to encourage Giorgio and his architect Chuck Thomas to get “second and third opinions on the structural integrity of the building” before any village board approves its demolition. The building, which dates to the 1750s, is next door to the historic Latham House on Main Street, Sag Harbor.

“We are very concerned it is a very poor precedent to set,” said Mead of any decision to allow Giorgio to move forward with these new plans.

In early May, at a Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board meeting, Thomas approached that board informally to gain their views on the prospect of demolishing the structure and rebuilding it in kind.

About a year ago, after gaining a license agreement from the board of trustees, Giorgio received planning board approval to raise the commercial building as a part of a restoration project. That project was designed to shore-up the building through a new foundation and also add a new commercial space on the street level in what is now a crawl space using three-feet of village owned land.

However, at the May meeting, Thomas said once contractors took a closer look at the structure they realized the plan was far from possible, citing rot in the walls and poor construction separating the first and second floors.

According to Thomas, brining the building up to code would be nearly impossible due to its state of decay.

Even Thomas, at the ARB meeting, shied away from using the word “demolish.” Instead he chose to refer to the new plan as one that would “remove the building and reconstruct it in the same proportions.”

Thomas said, if he and Giorgio move forward with the concept, they would reclaim as many materials as possible from the original structure to use as they rebuild it, in kind.

But he added that before Giorgio filed plans for such a project, they wanted to hear what the Sag Harbor ARB had to say.

If they did move forward with the plans, however, Thomas said they would not raise the building or make use of the basement space as a new retail location — removing the need for a license agreement with the village.

Instead, they would seek to lower the building by 18-inches to make stairways to the existing two retail spaces on the first floor more accessible to pedestrian traffic.

Sag Harbor ARB members appeared stunned at the prospect, asking to see more information from Thomas and Giorgio. On Tuesday, prior to the village board meeting, Sag Harbor ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown said he suggested a historic preservationist be hired by the developer to weigh in on the structural integrity of the building.

Since news hit the street that this plan was being considered as a possibility for a historic Main Street building, Mead said emails have been pouring into Save Sag Harbor. Her board is concerned about the project and the precedent it could set in a historic village.

Mayor Brian Gilbride said that at this point any issues like this were firmly in the hands of the village planning board, not the board of trustees. He admitted, though, that he was unaware of even informal plans to demolish the building and rebuild it anew.

“I would like to reiterate that our concern at the historic society is enormous,” said Nancy Achenbach, president of the Sag Harbor Historical Society. “I would endorse what Susan has said. I believe we need more options.”

Chief Praises Police Department Initiative

In the wake of the arrest by Sag Harbor Village Police of a 32-year-old man for the alleged rape and incest of a minor, at Tuesday night’s village board meeting Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Thomas Fabiano praised his department. He credited them not only for making that arrest, but for taking initiative on several levels in an effort to make Sag Harbor a safer place for everyone.

Chief Fabiano said that in the case of the alleged rape, it was the initiative of an officer within the department who used language skills and investigation into a missing persons case to discover the female was not just missing, but in fact the victim of a serious sex crime.

On June 3, Sag Harbor Village Police arrested the alleged perpetrator of the crime at his Sag Harbor home. He is facing three felony charges, including for rape, criminal sex act and incest, and is also charged with a misdemeanor for endangering the welfare of a child.

The female victim, whose name along with the individual is being withheld to protect the victim’s identity, had been living under the man’s guardianship. Police found the victim after receiving a call from Port Washington Police on June 1. Police there had located her and an 18-year-old tenant of the same Sag Harbor house after the two allegedly ran away.

In addition to that case, Chief Fabiano said his department has solved larceny cases involving hundreds of thousands of dollars. On a smaller, albeit just as important note he said, an officer has gone out on his own to secure a $1,000 bicycle for patrols, donated by BikeHampton. Another officer, he added, has taken the initiative to become certified in installing car seats for residents to ensure the safety of their children and the department has also begun collecting car seats for those who cannot afford to buy them.

“These officers want to get involved and we are doing great things in the department,” he said.

“The great thing about this village is we have a lot of people working very hard out there,” said Gilbride.

Long Wharf

Lastly, Gilbride said that after learning that Suffolk County was not going to give the Village of Sag Harbor Long Wharf, he met with Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman last week. Gilbride began detailing with the legislator what kind of daily, weekly and annual maintenance the village currently performs on the property, despite not having a lease to the facility since January of 2011.

“We pick up the garbage twice a day, sweep it five days a week,” said Gilbride. “Constant maintenance is going on, the Department of Public Works is patching the perimeter of the steel wharf where settling is taking place, and we are insuring it.”

“At the last meeting, I suggested the county’s Department of Public Works meet with [Superintendent of Public Works] Dee [Yardley] and coordinate taking over all of the sweeping,” he added. “That prompted calls for a study.”

Gilbride added that Schneiderman said he would seek to expand the lease the county has long maintained with the village, and that plans to turn over Windmill Beach to village ownership were imminent. According to Gilbride, an agreement was reached in the 1980s for the village to own the beach, but the county failed to follow through with the agreement.

“We are trying to resolve this in some fashion,” said Gilbride. “I don’t think the county understands how much time, energy and effort the Village of Sag Harbor puts into Long Wharf.”

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One Response to “A Plea to Save a Building”

  1. Ruledbyfools says:

    There is no doubt the building is more than salvageable and that is to the historians’ best interest. The owner for sure will be better off with a new structure so that is to his best interest. Why not lift the house, excavate, pour a new foundation with new commercial space at street level (like most of the buildings on Main St.) place the old structure on the new foundation and restore the original structure. We know the original structure does not meet many of today’s codes but the original structure should be exempt within reason. This should be a no brainer.

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