By Kathryn G. Menu
At its December meeting, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officially agreed to sell a 16,405 square-foot waterfront property adjacent to New York State Route 114 in Sag Harbor to a developer who has long sought, unsuccessfully, to construct condominiums on a neighboring parcel.
Nalex International Development Corporation was awarded the property for $201,000.
The Village of Sag Harbor also placed a bid on the Long Island Rail Road-owned parcel when the MTA announced the public sale earlier this year. It made the only other offer on the property, for $90,101 with the hopes of using the parcel and adjacent village beachfront in the creation of a public park.
According to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, that was the maximum amount the village could offer as, by law, it is limited to offering no more than 10 percent over the minimum $82,500 the MTA sought for the property.
According to public records, Nalex International Development Corporation is a New York City-based company founded in 1990 with annual sales figures of $240,000. It has one employee, Emil Talel, the developer who successfully gained village approval for the 21 West Water Street condominium project — a project that stalled in the last year while developers attempted to renegotiate financing with its lender Amalgamated Bank.
On Tuesday, Gilbride said he believed the MTA’s decision to award the property to Talel was financial in nature, which goes against legislation passed earlier this year that requires public entities like the MTA look at public benefits as well as monetary gain when selling property.
“I am sure this was based on $201,000 and nothing more,” he said.
Gilbride added the village would look at all available legal options in coming weeks. In the meantime, Gilbride said he wondered if Talel was prepared to pay for the MTA land. He noted the approved West Water Street 19-unit condo project has been in limbo for over a year now, with several million dollars in liens levied against the unfinished project by contractors and subcontractors who have performed work on the site, but have yet to be paid.
On Tuesday, Talel said that it is his hope construction will resume in “the next couple of weeks.”
“We are in the process of finalizing agreement with the bank,” he said, adding once construction begins he expects the project will be completed in three to four months, just in time for the summer season.
Talel is also a part of the firm that sought to develop the Ferry Road condominiums next to the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge on a parcel adjacent to the property he just acquired from the MTA.
During the course of village review on several different versions of that project, the village code changed, and in its change, the number of allowed condo units on the parcel was reduced. That resulted in Telal’s firm East End Ventures filing two lawsuits against the village, its consultant and attorney and members of the board of trustees.
In the suits, including a $30 million civil action against the village, East End Ventures claims it was led to believe it was exempt from the new code. It also claims the code was not adopted correctly by the village board.
The cases are both still pending with depositions set to begin in next week. According to Gilbride, the village filed a motion of dismissal almost a year ago, but has yet to be heard.
On Tuesday, Talel said the village has refused to take meetings with him or his representatives, leaving them with no choice but to move forward with the lawsuits. Developing the Ferry Road parcel under the current zoning, said Talel, would reduce his proposed 18-unit project to roughly seven units.
“We cannot build anything there right now that makes economic sense with the new zoning,” he said. “This is just where we are at, unfortunately.”
Talel added that he is still open, now as the official owner of the MTA property, to offering the village an easement on all public areas around the Ferry Road parcel.
“We are not vicious people,” continued Talel. “But if we win this suit, and we do have a chance, I don’t know how the village will be able to handle it. We will be talking about millions in wasted dollars.”
On Tuesday, Gilbride called the suits “frivolous,” and said if Talel would like a meeting with him, the suits will need to be dropped first.
“I would love to see some project there, honestly,” said Gilbride. “And if it complies with the code, we will go out of our way to help them. I even talked to the bank in an attempt to help re-finance 21 West Water Street. I can’t walk into Schiavoni’s [Market] anymore without someone asking me about that.”