A request to allow Vered, also known as Ruth Vered, and Janet Lehr to replace rotted wood, broken windows and repaint the exterior of their home at 161 Madison Street, formerly the Bethel Baptist Church, evolved into a heated discussion about art at Monday’s Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) meeting.
Tom Horn Sr., one of just three board members at the meeting, announced he would abstain from voting in favor of the maintenance work because he didn’t care for a 15-foot sculpture of legs, by renowned artist Larry Rivers, which Vered and Lehr put up directly adjacent to the residence two years ago.
After hearing the details of the needed work at the property, the three sitting members of the board – chairman Cee Scott Brown, Diane Schiavoni and Horn appeared in favor of approving the application when Horn announced he would not vote. With board members Bethany Deyermond and Michael Mensch absent, even with the support of Brown and Schiavoni, any approval was at a stalemate.
“The only problem I have with this is those legs on the side of the house,” said Horn, who argued that Lehr and Vered promised the ARB when they restored and renovated the church that they would not hang artwork on the side of the house.
“I think it’s a separate issue,” said Schiavoni.
“This town is the most magnificent town and I love it,” said Vered, noting the sculpture was not a permanent fixture and can be removed.
“If it can be removed, I have no problem,” replied Horn.
“I think it adds to the character of the town,” said Vered. “It doesn’t hurt anyone.”
Vered added she believed that what was promised to the ARB was that the residence would not become a gallery.
“Larry Rivers is one of our famous artists,” she said. “We should be very proud to have this in our village.”
Brown suggested that Vered come back at the next meeting and try her hand with a full board or, if she chooses, remove the sculpture at issue.
The issue of the legs was first raised in June of 2008, when then-building inspector Al Daniels sent a letter to the couple informing them the sculpture was in violation of the village code in that it needed a building permit.
According to a memo issued by Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. in 2008, any structure on a property, including artwork, is subject to a building permit and the New York State Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of municipalities on that very issue.
On Tuesday, Thiele confirmed that remains his legal opinion. According to files in the Village of Sag Harbor Building Department, a permit has never been issued for the Rivers sculpture.
In other ARB news, Susan Herman was approved to restore water-damaged portions of her home at 93 Suffolk Street and to restore windows, gutters and paint the exterior of the historic home. The board is allowing Herman to use Azek, a synthetic material not often approved for use in the historic district, on a piece of an arbor that connects to the house due to significant water damage in the area. Barbara Lawson, with Double Jay Reality, was also permitted to change the shape of an awning at their 83 Main Street location and David Alpern and Sylvia Clark were given permission to construct a pool and hot tub at their 91 Franklin Avenue abode. Lyle Pike and George Monticello were also approved, for a new awning for La Maison bistro at 16 Main Street.
Lastly, the former Black Buoy will no longer be black. Michael Cinque and Edward Burke, Jr. received permission from the board to paint the exterior of the Main Street building white for their new restaurant LT Burger.