What many people may not realize is that Sag Harbor’s Long Wharf is not in fact Sag Harbor Village’s Long Wharf, but rather Suffolk County Road 81, a right-of-way the Village of Sag Harbor has complete access to, but does not pay a dime for.
On Tuesday, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said he would like to begin discussions about the village taking over Long Wharf officially, and therefore the maintenance associated with the facility as the county does not benefit from having Long Wharf as a property, but bears the burden of costly maintenance.
For example, said Schneiderman, the county is poised to spend $600,000 re-painting Long Wharf. He said he would rather see that money gifted to the Village of Sag Harbor, along with the Long Wharf property with the understanding the village would bear the burden of future maintenance.
On Tuesday, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said he was unsure if he would have support from the village board of trustees to move forward with such an acquisition, but expected the matter could come up in executive session following next Tuesday’s village board meeting.
“Every time we get to talk about the long term maintenance of a facility like that, we keep coming back to the effect it could have on the village’s tax rate,” said Gilbride, noting Suffolk County has plans to sink hundreds of thousands into Long Wharf and once had to spend millions to maintain the facility.
“It costs us nothing,” said Gilbride. “We sweep it, we take care of it and we get the money from the boats, but quite honestly it would not be enough revenue to support that kind of maintenance. So, I am pretty cautious.”
Long Wharf was built in 1770, becoming a crucial part of Sag Harbor’s whaling industry. Once owned by the Long Island Railroad, according to Schneiderman it eventually fell into private hands before it became county property.
While Schneiderman stressed this discussion has just begun and he expects a meeting in coming weeks between village and county officials, he did add he believes a number of village businesses are in fact encroaching on the right-of-way, adding that the village retains revenues from dockage on Long Wharf, not the county.
“They are making money on it and we are paying to maintain it,” said Schneiderman. “It is not really fair to the county, and besides, to me, shouldn’t Long Wharf belong to Sag Harbor?”
Schneiderman added that the county has recently struck a similar deal with the Town of Southampton, which maintains Noyac Road, but does not technically own it.
“They have to go through the county for certain road cuts, and we have liability associated with it,” said Schneiderman. “We would like it off our books because it is not a benefit to the county. It just makes sense.”
Schneiderman said ultimately his concern was eventually the county would start asking for money for the encroachment on county property by businesses, and that it could also seek control of the docks or an increase in what fees the village would pay for access to Long Wharf.
“I am not trying to be heavy handed here, honestly,” he said. “But it makes sense for the village to take control of the property because you just don’t know what can happen down the line.”