By Richard Gambino
On April 2, The Express ran a front page story about a judge dismissing a suit against Mayor Greg Ferraris’ government by the environmental organization, The Group for the East End. The judge dismissed the case solely on a technicality. As stated by this newspaper, the technicality was that “the Group’s attorney, James Periconi, failed to name developers Sag Development Partners in the lawsuit.” And that technicality is all of the judge’s reason. As also pointed out, no judge or court has heard the merits of the Group’s suit, or the Village’s defense against it. Given all this, the response of Mayor Greg Ferraris is worthy of a skit on Saturday Night Live. Except, according to this paper, his statements are no parody — he really said them. Really.
The suit was about the Bulova condo project, which was approved by Sag Harbor’s Village Hall, without the Village requiring from the condo developer a Draft Environmental Impact Statement regarding the project as required by the New York State Environmental Quality Review Law.Â Â Â Â Â Specifically, there are two issues. First, Mayor Ferraris and company approved a plan to truck thirty thousand cubic yards of potentially toxic soil on 3,750 large trucks past countless houses, schools and other buildings in, and far beyond, Sag Harbor. Second, the Village waived the legal requirement that the developers include in their condo thirteen units of affordable housing. Instead, the town fathers and mothers decided that the developers be allowed to contribute $2.5 million, or about $192,300 per unit, which, even in this time of economic recession, would not come close to buying a single dwelling in Sag Harbor.
The Express quoted the Chairman of the Planning Board, Neil Slevin, about the Village’s process in blessing the Bulova condo. He compared it to the board’s current process of reviewing the proposal for yet another huge condo complex, one called “Ferry Road.” He noted that with regard to the Ferry Road condo proposal, in the words of the article, his “planning board has asked for an impact statement and is engaged in the very process Samuelson advocates.” (Referring to Jeremy Samuelson, an officer of The Group for the East End.) Slevin’s logic here is stunning, and all too typical of Ferraris and company: We are asking for the New York State-required environmental impact statement for the large Ferry Road condo, therefore we were justified in not asking for such a statement regarding the even larger Bulova condo. Â Â
But let’s go to Mayor Ferraris’ own dazzling statements, giving them the seriatim attention they deserve. Please, again, keep in mind this is not a parody. According to this newspaper, Mayor Ferraris actually said all the quotations of him that follow:
Â “ ‘I am pleased with the court’s decision; however it feels like a hollow victory as the Bulova factory once again sits dormant due to the financial crisis,’ said the Mayor.”
Meaning that the developers may not have the money to build the condo during the current economic downturn. But fortunately for them they have Ferraris fighting for them, great advocate for condos that he is. After all, isn’t this what the voters elected Ferraris to do, be the Â developers’ darling of the East End? No small accomplishment given that the South Fork’s governments are made up largely of developers and realtors, by developers and realtors and for developers and realtors. But with their Mayor Greg, developers have been truly and exceptionally blessed. Other governments out here have been content merely to approve endless McMansions. But their beloved Greg is determined to cover Sag Harbor with condo complexes.
Â “ ‘I really question the motive and the direction of the management of the Group for the East End,’Â continued Mayor Ferraris,Â ‘who have morphed from an environmental advocacy group into a lobbyist organization engaging in social and economic issues outside their league. It is unfortunate that the village needs to expend tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money defending itself against these types of baseless claims and I can only hope that village residents recall this when funding these organizations.’”Â
Spending “tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money” defending his right not to file a NYS-required environmental impact statement — how bravely responsible of our wise Mayor. The Group is a “lobbyist organization?” For whom? The sneaky local plants and wildlife? Our lands and waters, with their vile lust to remain healthy? Healthy for us, our children and grandchildren. Why, those people in The Group know no end to their inordinate moxie, chutzpah and nerve!
Unable to defend his indefensible decisions by reasoned argument, FerrarisÂ resorts to attacking the “motive” of The Group. Speaking of motives, Mr. Ferraris, what’s your motive for bypassing NY State Law? Oh yes, the in-house report you did on your own, including the plan for thousands of trucks full of potentially toxic soil. Why not just resolve this issue by asking the Bulova developers for the NYS-required environmental impact statement? What would be the harm of two studies? And now that you’ve opened the question of motives, what’s your motive for spending “tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money” to keep from doing this?Â Â Â Â
Three thousand, seven hundred and fifty large trucks carrying thirty thousand cubic yards of potentially toxic soil past our homes and schools, not to mention countless homes and public institutions beyond Sag Harbor. Somehow Mr. Ferraris never mentions this. How noble of the Mayor to allow this, and then to spend “tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money” to insist on it.Â And let’s not think of the cost the Village might have in defending against suits if there is even so much as a single mishap in which just one of those trucks spills potentially toxic soil onto a street lined by houses, or near a school or shopping center. And the cost in possibly losing against the suits. Mr. Mayor, don’t trouble you head about it, full as it is with “social and economic issues outside the league” of the rest of us.
Yes sir and madam, the next time your darker angels urge you to send a contribution to a local environmental organization, resist the temptation and send your check to theÂ Public Defense of Greg Ferraris Fund. But, then, he already has your money for this. Sorry.
A few weeks ago, Greg Ferraris was quoted in this newspaper as saying he would not run for re-election as mayor. Promises, promises. Whether he does or not, here’s hoping against hope that a candidate for the office steps forward who is dedicated to ending Sag Harbor’s Village Hall bending over backwards, sideways, and let’s not forget, forward, for condos. Even to the point of spending “tens of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money” possibly to put a huge population at risk. Before it’s too late.
RICHARD GAMBINO urges all to contribute generously to The Group for the East End (P.O. Box 569, Bridgehampton, NY 11932 ), and urges The Group to appeal the judge’s decision, as it has said it might. He has never served on the Group’s Board or committees.