Next Friday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Long Island Railroad will auction off a 16,405 square-foot, waterfront property in Sag Harbor – a piece of property both the Village of Sag Harbor and condominium developers East End Ventures plan to bid on.
The property, which is adjacent to village beachfront and East End Ventures property, where they hoped to develop the stalled Ferry Road condominiums, is already the subject of an adverse possession claim by East End Ventures.
That claim has yet to be adjudicated, and according to the MTA’s request for proposal, in addition to the purchase price at a minimum bid of $82,500, whoever takes ownership of the land will become the defendant in that case and must indemnify the MTA and the LIRR in any future lawsuits over the sale of the property.
This week, East End Ventures principal Emil Telal said that after unsuccessful negotiations with the village through the MTA to allow the developers to purchase the land and offer the village easement for a proposed waterfront park, he is prepared to offer a full easement to the village and has instructed his attorney Dennis Downes to do so.
“What was offered originally was a full easement in two stages,” said Telal on Tuesday, with the complete easement guaranteed once the Ferry Road condominiums were approved. That condo project is currently tied up in litigation between East End Ventures and the Village of Sag Harbor after the developers filed a $30 million claim against the village last year. They argue the village, in the revision of its zoning code, specifically sought to stall plans for the proposed luxury condominium project.
That case has yet to be decided.
On Tuesday, Telal said he would have offered the full easement initially if he had been directly involved in negotiations “to illustrate our good intentions.”
“People can walk there, people can sit there and this was my decision on the matter because I didn’t feel it would interfere with anything we would build there one day,” said Telal, adding he believes the village is attempting to purchase the property to further frustrate East End Ventures, which needs ownership of the parcel for access to the waterfront, which would enable them to construct docks, if approved, at the site as part of their development plans.
“Why would you buy it, if you can get it for free,” he asked. “It is an unbelievable disservice to the Village of Sag Harbor. They are going to throw away a minimum of $82,000 and we are confident we will win our adverse possession claim.”
Telal claimed East End Ventures could ultimately get the land for nothing, with the Village of Sag Harbor having to cover tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses as the new defendant in the case, should they be the winning bidder of the parcel.
Telal believed he had a deal to purchase the property from the MTA and expected the contract to be finalized when the village expressed interest in the property as well, which trustees have said they hope to develop with adjacent beachfront into a waterfront park.
However, according to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who is also the attorney for the Village of Sag Harbor, state law regarding public authorities like the MTA has changed, and part of that change requires authorities to publicly auction properties they are trying to dispose of, rather than make deals behind closed doors.
On Tuesday, Telal noted as a part of the original plans for the Ferry Road condominiums, East End Ventures had already planned on creating a public waterfront park at the site at their own expense.
“All of this can be resolved before next Friday,” he added.
On Tuesday, Mayor Brian Gilbride said the only easement the village was offered in negotiations was for an eight-foot wide public walkway.
“It was not total access,” he said. “That was what we wanted – total and complete access.”
Gilbride said East End Ventures does not own the property at this point with the adverse possession claim yet to be decided and therefore a full easement is not something Telal is in a position to negotiate. He added that he is confident the village will be the winning bidder.
“Once all these cases are dismissed, I would absolutely be willing to sit down and work with this developer,” continued Gilbride. “This board is working as hard as we can to get things up and running in the village. That is what is great about Sag Harbor.”