Contractor Roy “Buddy” Wines at 21 West Water Street. Construction at the condominium project, stalled for four years, has just begun.
By Kathryn G. Menu
It has been almost four years since contractor Roy “Buddy” Wines joined subcontractors in walking off the job at the 21 West Water Street condominium project after financing for the luxury development stalled.
On Tuesday, standing on the West Water Street lot — the grounds largely covered in weeds, two hurricane windows cracked by bullet holes — Wines watched as two welders began installing a beam on the redesigned lobby entrance.
“It feels good to have this starting again,” said Wines. “And we are going to do this right. It might take a little longer, but I think now everyone is committed to making sure we finish this project and we finish a project that is right for Sag Harbor.”
According to Wines, this week crews have begun preliminary work on the building based on the redesigned plans approved by the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) in January.
Incorporated into the redesign are aesthetic changes, including recladding the building in red cedar, removing large metal panels on the façade and replacing it with wood, replacing faux stone siding planned for the building and a wall around the property with real stone, as well as changes to the entry of the building and landscaping throughout the property.
Wines’ Southampton-based company RLW4 will see the project to completion as its contractor, while architects Ala Alavi and Cindy Meade work to have construction drawings finished showing all revisions to the project completed. In the meantime, crew members seen on the site are tackling structural projects around the building’s exterior, essentially prepping the long-dormant building for construction which truly kicks off on the site in about a month’s time.
Wines’ was reluctant to discuss when he expects the project — about 85 percent completed when the project shut down in 2009 — to be done. Part of the redesign, he noted, entails taking down siding and masonry work — essentially going backwards.
“But it’s going to be beautiful,” he said. “And it will fit into Sag Harbor. I think everyone will be happy with the final product.”
It’s also just nice, he admitted, to see a project stalled for many years back on track.
On the balcony of one of the 19 luxury condos planned within the project a stack of tiles has sat for years, slowly disintegrating into a pile of dust since workers first walked off the project in the fall of 2009, a little over a year after Wines broke ground.
At the root was stalled financing of the project, which was being developed by East End Development, LLC with financing through Amalgamated Bank. The corporation, led by developers Michael Maidan and Emil Talel, first proposed the project in 2006. It was embraced by the community, in part because the condominiums would take the place of a rowdy nightclub which was long the bane of neighboring residents.
However, the project was largely tied to a second development — another condominium project planned at 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road — parcels owned by East End Ventures. That project failed to find much community support. A 2009 Sag Harbor Village zoning code revision then limited the number of condo units the Ferry Road parcel could host, and added affordable housing requirements.
In September of that year, Talel and East End Ventures filed a $30 million damages suit against the village as well as an Article 78 suit, claiming they were led to believe the project would be exempt from the new code. Both suits were dismissed in 2011 and in the meantime, as early as the fall of 2009, workers were already walking off the job at 21 West Water Street. By July of 2010, there were over $3 million in liens recorded with the Suffolk County Clerk’s office against the property.
For years, Talel said he worked on renewing financing for the defunct project, but in October of 2012, East End Development LLC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
According to the original chapter 11 filing, East End Ventures debt associated with the 21 West Water Street property is estimated at $35,344,415.89.
Twenty-six mechanics’ liens are listed against the 21 West Water Street property from creditors holding secured claims in the bankruptcy case totaling $34,653,840.52 with an additional $7,353,840.52 in unsecured claims made by the same companies.
The largest mechanic’s lien filed against the property is by the Longview Ultra Construction Loan Fund through Amalgamated Bank — East End Venture’s loan provider. They filed a $30,484,011 lien on their own.
According to James Freel, a senior vice president and chief real estate officer with Amalgamated Bank and the Longview ULTRA Portfolio Manager, while chapter 11 proceedings continue to progress, the bank has provided the company with debtor-in-procession (DIP) financing in an effort to see the project completed and units sold.
Freel declined to discuss any specifics about the case except to say the bank is hopeful it will be over soon.
“We are hoping that this will all be resolved in coming months,” he said.
In the meantime, Wines said the building will be prepped for construction this summer, including its roof which will have a rooftop pool installed as a part of the project, designed with sunset Sag Harbor views in mind.
Wines was critical in the building not falling apart — visiting it every other day for four years to make sure the heating and air conditioning kept the building from falling into real disrepair and reporting water damage incurred during storms before mold could threaten the structure.
“I am glad we are finally finishing this up,” he said. “It is always nice to finish a project. It was tough driving over the bridge every day, just seeing it sit here.”