By Kathryn G. Menu; Michael Heller & Kathryn G. Menu photography
It all started with cracked windows.
Twenty-four panes to be exact — thin, spider web-like cracks weaving their way through the undulating historic glass in John Krug’s Church Street home — the Captain David Hand House, one of the oldest residences still standing on the South Fork.
After 52 years in the Colonial half house, Krug, 79, says he has found himself living in a virtual hell — a home once featured in bucolic magazine spreads now virtually cleaned out of most of Krug’s possessions, and facing a list of necessary repairs three pages long, and at a cost of over $200,000.
The Captain David Hand House, also known as simply the Hand House, sits just feet from the condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory. The Watchcase condominiums — as they have been marketed by Cape Advisors, the firm that won approval for the luxury residential development — includes 64 residences in the historic factory building and newly constructed townhouses lining Church and Sage streets.
Construction began late in 2011, and quickly Krug says life, as he knew it, changed dramatically.
“This has been going on for two years now,” said Krug, the former owner of Sag Harbor Antiques, in an interview earlier this month at his Sag Harbor home. “The whole house is packed up. I am living in a war zone here. I am embarrassed to even have friends over to the house it is such a mess and my psyche is going down the drain.”
In January of 2012, Cape Advisors began installing 45 foot long steel pilings that were vibrated into the ground to serve as a retaining wall necessary to shore up the property while an underground garage was constructed for the condo project. For over two weeks, the installation of these pilings literally shook up the neighborhood, with a number of complaints logged with the village building department.
It was during that installation that the 24 panes cracked. Krug said he felt like he was living through an earthquake on a daily basis — shelves and walls dumping their contents onto the floor of his home, glassware largely broken.
When he reached out to Cape Advisors and Arthur Blee, the firm’s director of design and construction, Blee promised Krug the company would pay for the windows and any other damage sustained on his property as a result of construction, said Krug. Krug said Blee advised him not to replace his windows until construction was completed.
While Cape Advisors was monitoring the level of vibrations as a result of the installation of the retaining walls, Krug says the vibrations often went beyond what was considered acceptable levels — something he says Blee confirmed.
In January of 2013, when the pilings were removed, Krug said his house once more shook violently. A third crane, brought in to remove the pilings in front of Krug’s house, was so large it required four arms to stabilize it — one of which, Krug said, was in his driveway.
What was left after the crane was able to remove the pilings, once more at vibrations Krug said exceeded levels deemed acceptable to the point where a vibration monitor stopped the work, were four large cracks that ran across his driveway and through the foundation of his house. The granite walls of the foundation are now bowed and the ground at the front of the house has separated from the foundation and has moved towards Church Street.
The door to his historic home no longer shuts properly, floorboards in the living room have separated, as has wood paneling and the house is pitched slightly forward. The kitchen ceiling has also separated from the rear wall.
In March of 2013 Krug filed an official complaint with the Village of Sag Harbor. Krug has also hired attorney Jeffrey Bragman to represent him.
According to a June 2013 estimate crafted for Krug by T & S Mott General Contracting, at that point there was an estimated $234,370 in repairs needed at the Hand House.
And it is not just any house.
According to a “Guide to Sag Harbor” by Henry Weisbery and Lisa Donneson, the Hand house was built in Southampton and existed before 1732. It is possible the house was actually built in the 17th century, with features like log beams in the basement and a post and beam design to the Colonial half house. The house was moved three times before it found it’s current home on Church Street. It was moved from Southampton to Sagaponack in 1752 and then moved to the intersection of Madison and Main Streets at the site now occupied by the Stanton house. In 1840 it was once again moved to Church Street.
The house belonged to David Hand, a legendary figure in Sag Harbor who outlived five wives all whom he is buried beside in Oakland Cemetery. Author James Fenimore Cooper was said to have been so impressed with Hand that he modeled him for the character Natty Bumpo in Leatherstocking Tales.
The history of the house is precious to Krug who said Cape Advisors is saying the cost of repairs should fall to its contractor Racanelli Construction. Racanelli Construction, said Krug, is in turn saying the responsibility should fall on the shoulders of the company that installed the pilings.
“Every time I start to talk about it, my stomach starts to churn,” he said.
On Monday, Cape Advisors partner David Kronman said he was aware of the Krug situation, but that the firm was dealing with it.
“Our insurance company said it was Racanelli’s insurance issue,” he said. “Racanelli is taking the lead on this.”
Kronman said the insurance company sent an expert engineer to survey the property in May of 2013 and that engineer determined none of the repair work was emergency in nature.
“The insurance company is in the process of working out a plan to fix the damage that has been caused,” said Kronman. “It is a process and we are working through that process right now.”
“We are pushing as hard as we can to get the insurance company to work as fast as they can but it is a process,” he added.
Kronman said there were a few other homes that sustained minor damage that have already been taken care of.
“Unfortunately, with John’s situation it is a substantial enough claim that we can’t go in and fix this ourselves — we have to work through the insurance company.”