Gilbride Takes Fight for MTA Roadbed to Governor

Posted on 28 August 2009

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride has taken his battle to secure a sliver of waterfront property belonging to the Long Island Railroad to Governor David Paterson this week after receiving word the land would be sold to an adjacent property owner and not the village.

On August 19, Gilbride penned a letter to the governor, state senator Kenneth LaValle, state assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, asking Paterson to assist the village in acquiring a parcel of land next to village owned beachfront adjacent to the Jordan Haerter Memorial Bridge. Last week the village was told by the Metropolitan Transit Authority that it would sell the land to East End Ventures, an adjacent property owner that has long sought to develop condominiums on Sag Harbor’s waterfront.

According to a letter from MTA vice president-general counsel and secretary Catherine Rinaldi, the MTA board approved the sale of the property to East End Ventures in July at a fair market price of $82,025. Rinaldi writes that under public authority law, the MTA was required to seek fair market value for the parcel and the sale would end current litigation between the MTA and East End Ventures, which has sought adverse possession of the parcel. Rinaldi said part of the sale includes a provision that allows an easement for public access.

“The LIRR has determined that it is in the best interests to proceed with the sale of the property to the plaintiff, as authorized by the MTA Board,” writes Rinaldi in a letter received by the village on August 24. “The LIRR will be conveying the property to the plaintiff via quitclaim deed, which means the plaintiff will only be getting those interests that the LIRR has the power to convey. Importantly, the deed does not extinguish any rights that the village may have in the property, and the village’s outside counsel may still elect to assert a legal interest in the subject parcel on the village’s behalf.”

In Gilbride’s letter to Governor Paterson, the mayor asserts the village’s prior legal claim to the abandoned roadway, citing a LIRR express easement granted to the village in 1915. Gilbride notes the village has had numerous correspondences with the MTA regarding the parcel since 1996, which it was conceived adjacent beachfront already owned by the village could be turned into a park using the LIRR land.

“The MTA failed to consult the Village or take into account the clear public benefit and long term public use of the land,” writes Gilbride.

“Sag Harbor has been in for the forefront of maintaining and expanding public access to the Waterfront and is proud to be the first Village in our State to adopt a [Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan],” Gilbride continues later in the letter. “The acquisition of this parcel would continue this important tradition.”

On Tuesday Gilbride said despite the letter from the MTA, the village planned to continue this fight, noting that in addition to the board of trustees, residents and government officials alike have been reaching out to Governor Paterson to assist the village in this venture.

In related village news, the board of trustees has hired the law firm of Jaspan Schlesinger to fight a lawsuit filed against the village earlier this month by East End Ventures regarding the environmental review of the village’s new code. They claim village officials did not review the new code properly before its passage. The code drastically changes what is possible on the waterfront property East End Ventures hoped to develop into luxury condominiums.

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