Tag Archive | "Bulova"

Expecting a Tax Windfall? Guess Again.

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Southampton Town assessors have valued the Bulova Watchcase property at $38.5 million, and it’s expected to drop. Photo by Michael Heller. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

As the Watchcase condominiums continue to take shape, transforming the once derelict Bulova building on Division Street in Sag Harbor into luxury housing, one might think the village’s tax base will be getting a huge boost soon.

And why not, with its 63 units being offered at prices ranging from $1 million for a small apartment to more than $10 million for one of its fourth-floor penthouses. So, when the last dab of touch-up paint is applied to the last piece of trim, will the development add $100 million, $150 million, or maybe even $200 million to the village’s $2.01 billion tax base?

Try $46 million—the amount the construction site was valued at the end of 2014—and dropping.

The preliminary assessment for 2015 has already reduced the property’s value to $38.5 million, and Southampton Assessor Lisa Goree expects the value to drop even more, to something closer to $31 million or $32 million, once all the units are sold.

“Because they are condos, they are not valued the same as residential property,” she said. “I know these units are selling for millions of dollars. However, real property law says we have to assess them as income property—what they would rent for.”

Assuming the village’s tax rate remains unchanged at about $2.79 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, the Watchcase property will add only about $107,000 to the village’s coffers this year.  Similarly, at last year’s tax rate of $5.22, the development would pay about $201,000 in school taxes. Those amounts could be tripled, or even quadrupled, if the units were assessed the same way a single-family home across the street is.

“A lot of people thought it was going to be a cash cow for us—and the school district,” said Sag Harbor Village Trustee Ed Deyermond. “But it’s not.”

And Mr. Deyermond should know. He served as an assessor in East Hampton Town for years before moving to Southampton Town, where he oversaw a townwide reassessment, and served as assessor for 16 years in two separate stints.

The fly in the ointment is Chapter 581 of the New York State Real Property Law, he said.

“If you have a one-to-three-family home, it is valued using the market approach,” Mr. Deyermond said. “So if it sells for $1 million, at full assessment, you should be assessed at or near $1 million.”

But the state law requires that assessors apply a different rule of thumb to condominiums, cooperatives, townhouses,  and other similar property. “The income approach mandates—and courts have consistently upheld this—that you have to consider what those units would rent for, for the month, the year, in season and out of season,” he said.

The formula allows a condo owner to further reduce his assessment by deducting expenses for insurance, maintenance and repairs. Furthermore, it factors in the cost to the owner of tying up his money in the investment, which would typically reduce the value even more.

The same formula is applied to other condos in the village, including the Harbor Close condos on Long Island Avenue and the Villas and new Harbor’s Edge condos on West Water Street.

Don’t expect things to change soon, said State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. “There have been efforts to change the law, but they have never gotten off the ground,” he said. “Historically, the real estate lobby has lobbied really hard to keep it this way.”

Mr. Deyermond said he realizes the town’s hands were tied in how it ultimately assessed the property, but he questioned whether it could have phased in the change, from when the property was valued as a single commercial development owned by Cape Advisors to when it was divvied up into condo units last year.

“We argued that it could have been done over two to four years—until all the units are sold,” Mr. Deyermond said.

Not so, said Ms. Goree. “Once developer submits its condo plan to the state attorney general’s office and a percentage of them sell, we have to make the switch,” she said.

The $38.5 million valuation she came up with was a third higher than the amount the developer’s appraiser submitted, about $26 million, she said.

Cee Scott Brown, a broker with Corcoran Real Estate, who represents Watchcase, said this week that 72 percent of the units have been sold and he expects the rest to go fairly quickly, as the weather improves and construction nears an end.

“It has been a huge financial headache,” Mr. Deyermond said of the development, saying that construction work has left Washington, Church, and Sage Streets in serious disrepair.

But David Kronman, a partner in Cape Advisors, said the developers would repair any damage construction work caused to neighboring streets, and he pointed out that the developers had nothing to say about how the property was valued.

“I don’t think the project was approved because it would bring a windfall of tax revenue to the village,” he said. “The project was approved because it was reasonable and sensitive. We’re saving a historic building that was falling apart for years.”


Interior Designers Dress Up Watchcase Condos for Charity

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A view of the interior of one of the apartments in the Watchcase development in the former Bulova factory. Michael Heller

By Stephen J. Kotz

Sag Harbor’s past and future crossed paths Saturday when the doors of the old Bulova watchcase factory—once the cornerstone of the village’s economy and now being transformed into luxury condos—were thrown open for a coming out party.

For the occasion,  a “white carpet” was painted on the courtyard, where workers once filed to their stations in the massive brick factory, but where on this nearly perfect summer  evening, men and women, most of them dressed in white according to the theme, arrived for the second annual Holiday House Hampton to benefit the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

The event was sponsored by HC&G magazine, and three of the units had been decorated by teams of interior designers and opened to the public for the first time. They will remain open daily through August 10 as part of the fundraising effort.

Interior designer Iris Dankner, the co-chairwoman of the event, and a breast cancer survivor, welcomed members of the press to a preview party, with a call for early detection.

Craig Wood, a co-managing partner of Cape Advisors, the developer who bought the property in 2006, weathered the financial crisis of 2008, and finally broke ground on the project in 2011, said he was breathing easier these days. He said he expected the project to be completed, “except for punch list stuff,” allowing the first tenants to move into apartments ranging in price from $1 million to $10 million by the end of the year.

While it will have taken only about three and a half years to turn the once derelict building into a residential showcase,  designers also worked at a breakneck pace to prepare their spaces for Saturday’s opening party. The phrase,  “You should have seen this place three weeks ago,” could be heard in room after room.

The units selected for the unveiling were a two-bedroom apartment in the renovated main building, one of 46 units in that part of the development, and two units from the newly constructed townhouse portion of the site, including a three-story townhouse and a one-story bungalow.

In the two-bedroom apartment, which looked out over Washington and Church streets, massive beams, cut from old growth yellow pine forests when the building was built 130 years ago, were left exposed, as were portions of the brick walls and arched windows, which lined both sides of the building. In all the units, rough hewn oak kitchen cabinets and Thermador stainless steel appliances continued the post-industrial theme. The space included a large terrace overlooking the courtyard. A second terrace will overlook—once it is completed—a pool and lounge area. A third looked out over Washington Street.

James Huniford of Huniford Design Studio handled the main portion of the factory unit, with bedrooms designed by Campion Platt and Tamara Magel. The main terrace was designed by Milly de Cabrol and Ani Antreasyan, who told those who stopped at their site that they sought to evoke a European garden, with olive trees, a potting table, and terra cots pots.

Ms. Dankner’s ID Creations oversaw the decoration of the main living and dining area of the bungalow, with Jen Going Interiors handling the master bedroom and Eugenia Au Kim of the Design Studio decorating front and rear terraces.

Nine different designers plied their trade in the three-story townhouse. Bjornen Design decorated a second floor bedroom; Brady Design, the master bedroom; Dale Cohen Design Studio, the terrace; Elizabeth Dow Home, a second floor study; Elsa Soyers Interior Design, a bedroom; Scott Formby, a ground level lounge; Studio MRS, a dressing room; West Chin Architects and Interior Design, the main living and dining space, and Vincente Wolf,  a tent next to the house with outdoor furnishings.

The Watchcase will be open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through August 10. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased by visiting www.holidayhousehamptons.com.

The Condos of Sag Harbor – Game Changers?

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By Peter Boody

It’s hard to imagine any one thing that could have a bigger impact on cozy, compact and historic Sag Harbor than the completion, sale and occupancy of more than 80 luxury dwellings in the heart of the village all within the same year.

That’s what may happen beginning late this summer, when the first occupants are expected to move in at the old Bulova Watchcase Factory — built in 1881, closed in 1980, and long a hulking ruin of crumbling brick, gaping windows, rotting trim and a weed-choked parking lot one block east of Main Street.

“I don’t know how much it will change the village,” Sag Harbor Planning Board member Nat Brown said of the project, but “I have a feeling a lot of the people purchasing in there won’t be like regular village people.”

Some village residents are chafing at the Watchcase project, complaining that its massive scale threatens the character of the community. In a prepared a statement for this story, officials of the local group Save Sag Harbor wrote in an email that they believe “we are all custodians of a very special place and that our best defense in maintaining the scale and character of the village we love is to have strong village boards which enforce our hard-won zoning code by keeping variances to an absolute minimum.

“Our volunteer boards are committed to the village but they are up against well-funded corporations and individuals who are driving development with increasingly complex projects. The overriding challenge to our community and our boards is to discern and act upon threats to the village fabric before design plans become reality.”

For the record, when the Watchcase condominiums were being reviewed by village boards, in 2008 the project earned the endorsement of the Save Sag Harbor board of directors.

When its $40-million renaissance is completed beginning late this summer, the restored, partly reconstructed brick factory building will contain 47 loft apartments with high ceilings and exposed Southern yellow pine beams and 17 units in new, detached frame buildings now under construction along Sage and Church streets.

In the factory, units range from studios containing about 575 square feet to a three-bedroom penthouse containing 3,297 square feet. Prices range from $400,000 to $10.2 million. In the detached townhouses, the smallest one-bedroom bungalow contains 1,074 square feet and the largest unit contains five bedrooms and 4,834 square feet. Townhouse prices range from $3.49 million to $6.5 million.

As of late January, 32 of the 64 units were under contract, with closings expected to begin late this summer, according to Gordon Hoppe of Corcoran Sunshine in New York, which is handling the marketing for developer Cape Advisors.

Just a few blocks to the west, on the other side of Main Street, residents also could be moving in this year to the long-stalled West Water Street condo project. Construction of the 15- to 19-unit building with a top-floor pool and views of Sag Harbor Cove is expected to wind up this spring after a long delay following the initial developer’s bankruptcy filing.

When last listed more than two years ago, one of the West Water Street units was priced at more than $3 million.

The contractor, Roy L. Wines IV of RLW4 Construction in Southampton, identified Joe LoMonaco as the new developer. Mr. Wines said that it was too early for Mr. LoMonaco to discuss the timetable for finishing the project or to begin marketing. Mr. LoMonaco is an official of Amalgamated Bank, the initial lender, which acquired title to the project last year through bankruptcy proceedings involving the original developers, East End Ventures, for $27 million.

Although neighbors are glad a noisy nightclub that once operated on the same site is long gone, some have been unhappy about the condo project, calling it aesthetically inappropriate and out of scale.

There’s no doubt both condo projects are having aesthetic impacts. But will the addition to the local housing stock of about 80 luxury condo units just off Main Street add new heat to the Sag Harbor real estate market? Will they significantly affect the tax base or the village budget? Perhaps most important for some worried residents, will these projects change the look, feel and fabric of a unique, one-of-a-kind village?

Nat Brown of the planning board, who has been working as the board’s liaison between concerned residents and Cape Advisors, said he had favored the project because it removes an eyesore that might have cost the village a lot of money to clean up one day.

But he predicted an increase in traffic and pain for local business owners if their landlords, expecting a long-term surge in well-heeled shoppers, hold out for ever-higher rents.

Mr. Brown also said he worried about an increased demand for municipal services, especially if the infrastructure of the business district east of Division Street has to be upgraded in coming years because of commercial growth and expansion there.

With Watchcase condos ranging in price from more than $1 million for a ground-floor one-bedroom garden loft to more than $10 million for the most luxurious penthouse, and monthly maintenance fees running from close to $1,000 to $3,000, “People are not going to spend that kind of money and not start demanding other services,” Mr. Brown said.

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., a Sag Harbor native who is a former Southampton Town supervisor, South Fork county legislator and Sag Harbor village attorney, doesn’t agree.

“I don’t see it having any significant adverse impact to the character of the community,” he said of the Watchcase project. “I think the people developing this project are high quality developers who have done excellent projects in other communities.” The project is “something that is consistent with the character of the village,” he said.

As for the kind of people it draws to the village. “I don’t think its going to change,” he said. “I mean, those people are here already … I mean it’s not as if suddenly a whole new demographic that Sag Harbor has never seen before is going to show up in the village and we’re going to suddenly be looking at them and saying who are those people.”

Of the kind of people drawn to the Watchcase project, former mayor and current planning board member Greg Ferraris said, “A normal evolution would bring this to Sag Harbor.”

“We see it not only in the condos,” he added, “but in the redevelopment of existing historic homes in the village [and] in the purchase of several residences on adjacent lots that people are making into family compounds. We’ve seen three or four of those over the last two years, so I believe Sag Harbor has definitely attracted a wealthier demographic.”

Neither Mr. Thiele nor Mr. Ferraris said the new condos would significantly increase the demand for municipal services or infrastructure. Both noted residents won’t be likely to add to the local school population.

Nor would the condos cause a dramatic rise in the village’s overall assessed valuation, they agreed to some extent. Both noted that state tax law bars municipalities from assessing condominium units on the basis of their market values. Instead, they must be treated as commercial properties with their assessments based on potential revenues.

“We really wont see any increase in tax revenues as a result,” Mr. Ferraris said.

Mr. Thiele predicted there will be a “substantial increase in the tax base but, generally speaking, condos get assessed at lower values based on the income method.”

Neither the Watchcase project nor the smaller West Water Street condos will have a dramatic effect on the local real estate market, Mr. Thiele argued. “One project isn’t going to change the entire dynamics of the real estate market,” he said. “It’s not nearly as important as what’s going on in the overall economy or what interest rates are at any given point in time.”

The developers and their agents say that the Watchcase project won’t draw a lot of people who aren’t already here.

There always have been wealthy people who want a carefree but luxurious place to stay in the Hamptons, said Gordon Hoppe of Corcoran Sunshine. They’re called renters. “They just want to lock the door and leave. So we knew that was going to be one of the pulls” of the project.

He declined to identify any individual buyers. There have been “international buyers, people with place in Cannes, Majorca, Aspen,” and “some are people from the boating community.” There also have been “people who own houses, people of all ages who just don’t want to deal with the house anymore.”

“I think there’s really two categories” of buyers, said Cape Advisor partner David Kronman: one is “people who have spent time in the Hamptons but never would consider buying a place because they just don’t want the brain damage of buying a home.” Now the Watchcase project allows them to own a place with all the luxuries they want — not to mention the proximity of a charming and historic community — “in a kind of maintenance worry-free way.”

The second group includes owners of large homes who “are either getting ready to downsize, or they just don’t want to deal with the headaches of homeownership any more. And they like the idea of being able to walk out of their front door and go get a cup of coffee or go to the Bay Street Theatre or go see a movie and not have to worry about constantly getting in the car to go do anything.”

“It’s going to be a mixed demographic age-wise,” he said, including “people that do have roots out east and in Sag Harbor, and it’s certainly not going to be … all finance and Wall Street people. That’s definitely not what we’ve seen. We’ve seen a lot of people involved in the arts, in theatre and in culture that have bought units there. And I think that will only help Sag Harbor.”



Sag Harbor ARB Tables Application for New Windows at In Home

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The owners of In Home on Main Street are reconsidering an appeal they made to the Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) to allow them to replace three second-story windows with aluminum clad wood windows similar to those recently erected in the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.

Owner John Scocco said he would talk to his partner, David Brogna, about the application after a prolonged conversation with the ARB last week. During that discussion it was revealed the board does not believe it formally signed off on the aluminum clad windows at the former watchcase factory, and similar windows approved at 125 Main Street were an oversight by the board.

Last Thursday, Scocco came back before the board for a second time to discuss the appeal, which looks to overturn a previous decision denying the use of aluminum clad wood windows in a second story window replacement project.

Scocco argued the very same windows have been used in the luxury condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory — a historic building in the historic district. The same windows have also been used at 125 Main Street, a renovated historic building, although last month the ARB met with building owner Jim Giorgio in an effort to get him to replace those windows with wood windows. That discussion was left open ended after Giorgio requested he be allowed to replace four second story windows with two picture windows, a concept not viewed favorably by the ARB.

“Dave and I care a lot about Sag Harbor,” said Scocco. “We care about the historic integrity of the village.”

Scocco said it was only when they realized aluminum clad windows were approved for not one, but two historic district projects, that he and Brogna decided to revisit the issue in light of the cost of maintenance and eventual replacement of wood windows.

“Truly, four years ago there were a lot of details that were left very open ended and vague and that were going to be addressed moving forward,” said Brown of the ARB’s Bulova approval. “I have no recollection of us saying this is the window.”

Tom Horn, Sr., the only other member of the board sitting during the Bulova review, agreed, noting he would bet nothing could be found in the minutes showing the ARB signed off on those windows, or any synthetic materials for siding. Synthetic roof material was discussed by the ARB for the townhouses in that development project.

“125 Main was a complete and total lapse,” added Brown, noting it could have been as simple as the ARB not dictating that the windows in that building would need to be replaced in kind in its approval.

“I think we have an issue here,” said Brown. “We have approved a major project with 1,000 windows and another project … what grounds do we have to say no to three, second story windows.”

“We can appeal to you and say we don’t want you to do that and set any more precedents, but I don’t feel we can say, ‘No, you can’t do that’,” added Brown.

Village attorney Denise Schoen disagreed.

“If the approvals for the Bulova Watchcase and 125 Main were truly oversights or you lacked sufficient details to understand what you are approving, it doesn’t set a negative precedent you have to follow for the next 100 years,” said Schoen. “When we talk about precedent, we talk about when an applicant comes in, you examine what they are presenting and say, ‘that is appropriate for Main Street. That is appropriate for the historic district.’”

“I understand what the applicant is saying and I feel for both of you, but I just want to make the distinction it is not a legal precedent that has been set,” she continued.

If challenged, a court could state it did not believe the ARB did not intend to allow synthetic windows. Schoen said she would comb through the Bulova file.

“So I understand where you are coming from and I felt bad denying you because this is something that slipped through the cracks,” said board member Penni Ludwig.

If it were not for these two oversights, added Ludwig, Scocco and Brogna would have replaced their windows with wood.

“You can make a stink and fight it and I understand your feeling,” said Ludwig, “but I am trying to look at it that this is a mistake and it will snowball and we won’t have a leg to stand on.”

Board member Christine Patrick wondered if the ARB approved Scocco and Brogna’s appeal would they then be setting a precedent for the historic district as they would knowingly be agreeing to allow aluminum clad windows in downtown Sag Harbor.

Schoen said yes.

“I am worried about that,” said Patrick.

Scocco said he respected the ARB and wanted to talk to Brogna about the application. He added some historic districts do allow these kinds of windows.

“That is where I am stuck because I don’t necessarily believe it compromises the integrity but I understand it is not what you want,” he said.

Brown noted the ARB has been open to some synthetics in the historic district. The ARB was the first in the nation to approve the use of photovoltaic shingles in a now moot application for the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church building on Madison Street.

“This board is trying to be open and go with the flow,” said Brown. “Windows are the soul of the house.”

Schoen added that because the village code asks the board not to allow synthetic materials, any decision that does so could theoretically be challenged as it would be a decision that goes against village law.

“I respect everyone here,” said Scocco, asking the board to table the application while he talks to his partner.

In other ARB news, the board sent a letter to the village boards including the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees asking for a zoning code amendment to change the front yard setback in Sag Harbor to 20 feet, down from 30 feet.

The idea, said Brown, is 20 feet is a setback that is in keeping with homes in the village.

The next Sag Harbor ARB meeting will be held at 5 p.m. on Monday, November 25.

Baron’s Cove Inn Restaurant Likely To Earn Sag Harbor Village Approval Next Month

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By Kathryn G. Menu

It appears likely Cape Advisors will earn final approval from the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board next month to construct a restaurant this winter at Baron’s Cove Inn on West Water Street. The restaurant is part of the firm’s plans to transform the inn into a family-friendly, resort destination.

During a contentious August meeting, some neighbors protested the restaurant design, which includes a first floor bar area next to an expansive lobby — an aspect of the plan that had neighbors reeling with memories of Rocco’s, an unwelcome nightclub fixture on West Water Street for many years.

The not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor was also present at the meeting, with attorney Susan Meade arguing if approved, she believed the village would be legalizing a second primary use, rather than an accessory restaurant to a resort motel. An accessory restaurant is legal under the Sag Harbor Village code for the parcels that hold both Baron’s Cove Inn and the neighboring Sag Harbor Inn.

The neighbors called on the planning board to send the plans back to Sag Harbor Building Inspector Tim Platt to review whether or not the proposed restaurant was truly an accessory use to the resort-motel.

Last Friday, Platt agreed it was.

In an October 19 memo to the planning board, Platt noted the restaurant fell within the size limitations for an accessory restaurant use under the village code, was proposing 87 seats — including the eight proposed for the bar space — which also meets code and is providing 80 parking spaces where 63 are required.

Platt goes on to argue that bars are commonly associated with restaurants in Sag Harbor and that under the code unless alcohol sales became the primary sales out of the restaurant it would be considered ancillary.

Platt also pointed to a list of restrictions Cape Advisors has agreed to put on the property — restrictions that will run with the land no matter who it is sold to in the future — as evidence of the company’s commitment to serving alcohol only around the times the restaurant is actually in service.

Under the restrictions, Cape Advisors has agreed to have last call for any alcohol in the outdoor dining area on a proposed patio no later than 10 p.m., all outdoor background music will end at 9 p.m. nightly, last call at the restaurant’s bar will be no later than midnight and the hours of the restaurant bar will be tied to the hours of the dining room. However, he added, room service will still be permitted to sell alcohol.

Cape Advisors has also agreed to prohibit bottle service of liquor and will not allow cover charges or entry fees, which are common calling cards of nightclubs.

The pool will also be restricted to hotel guests and their guests and will be closed at 9 p.m. as will the outdoor concession area.

The planning board also questioned the use of the concession area at last month’s meeting. During their October session, on Tuesday night, Cape Advisors partner David Kronman said the stand would hold bathrooms, towel service and would sell water and ice cream to hotel guests. Alcohol, he said, will not be sold out of the concession stand.

In order to alleviate some parking concerns expressed by neighbors last month, Kronman said the firm has also explored valet car service, which he estimated could add about 10 spaces to the 80 space lot. A hotel manager will have the power to implement valet service on busy summer nights, said Kronman.

Given what he called the “unprecedented restrictions” Cape Advisors have agreed to place on the land, Kronman asked the board to move forward in approving the application.

On Tuesday night, not one resident spoke out against the project.

Walking through site plan issues the planning board must assess when reviewing a project — traffic, parking, screening, consistency with development in the area, outdoor lighting and drainage, during issue after issue, Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren noted based on revised plans submitted last month the application not only met code, but in terms of things like drainage was also improving the parcel.

In a straw poll, the board was unanimous that if Tim Platt signs off on the final set of plans and no red flags are raised in the board’s own review over the course of the next month it will approve Cape Advisors application at its November 27 meeting.

Sag Harbor Village attorney Denise Schoen was instructed to draft a draft approval for that session.

Baron’s Cove Dining Unnerves Neighbors

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The specter of Rocco’s, the former nightclub where the now defunct West Water Street condominium project sits, remains a strong force in Sag Harbor. This was evidenced as a proposed restaurant with a bar next door at a reimagined Baron’s Cove Inn drove scores of neighbors to the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board meeting on Tuesday night.

At the meeting, Cape Advisors partner Curtis Bashaw announced his firm has contracted to purchase the Baron’s Cove Inn from KBR Associates, which has owned the property since 2009.

Cape Advisors, the company restoring and renovating the former Bulova Watchcase Factory property into luxury condominiums and townhouses, has been managing the development of Baron’s Cove through the Cape Resorts branch of the company.

Tuesday night was the first admission by the company that it intended to purchase Baron’s Cove Inn, which was approved last year for the exterior renovation of its existing rooms. For the last year-and-a-half, KBR Associates through Cape Advisors has pursued approval to build a restaurant on the Baron’s Cove Inn site.

The restaurant is proposed to allow for 87 seats and will be on the second floor of a two-story building Cape Advisors would like to build where the current motel office sits today. The ground floor is proposed to have a lobby and bar, as well as a small retail space for sundries.

Any outdoor seating — proposed to be 18 seats in season and eight bar seats — have been counted in the total 87 seats the restaurant would be allowed under the village code.

The project conforms completely with the village zoning code and does not need any variances.

On Tuesday night, with the knowledge that residents around Baron’s Cove Inn had organized and were concerned about the impact this project could have on them, Bashaw offered a number of covenants to ensure the bar and outdoor pool spaces do not spiral into the second coming of Rocco’s. As someone who grew up in a small town, he noted he appreciates the need to protect community character and that his company is interested in growing roots in Sag Harbor, not developing it and walking away.

“We want to make sure this really integrates into the spirit of a place and dovetails nicely into the kind of place this already is,” said Bashaw to the roughly 60 people packed into the Sag Harbor Village Municipal Building meeting room.

In Cape May, N.J., Cape Advisors has developed five hotels, noted Bashaw, two of which are historic buildings. All of their properties are developed as “family-friendly,” said Bashaw.

“It’s lemonade, bicycles and lots of flags,” he said. “We believe in the authenticity of our projects and the authenticity of our guest’s experience.”

Bashaw added the last thing he would want to do is resurrect the experience neighbors’ had with Rocco’s.

“It’s just not what we are about,” he said.

Bashaw noted the pool area will be fenced off from the restaurant, and the company has agreed to limit the times alcohol is served on the property beyond the limitations set by the State Liquor Authority, which allows bars to serve alcohol until 4 a.m.

Bashaw said after hearing neighbors’ concerns he has even agreed to put some of the concessions in a deed that will run with the land, whether it is sold or not.

Bashaw said the pool will be restricted to hotel guests only. On the patio, any acoustic music will end at 9 p.m. and outdoors last call will be 10 p.m. All alcohol service, said Bashaw, will end at midnight.

The restaurant will also not have cover charges or bottle service to avoid any club-like atmosphere.

While neighbors requested the bar be located upstairs, Bashaw said they did not want to take away from the aesthetic they believe the bar space gives to the lobby.

In terms of poolside dining, he added his firm doesn’t want to tell guests they cannot have a sandwich by the pool, and the company would also be loath to restrict outdoor games, as has been requested by neighbors.

Angela Scott, a Spring Street resident representing a number of neighbors, said she appreciated the restrictions, but said they did not go far enough.

She questioned the size and location of the bar as the restaurant is meant to be accessory to the hotel use. Scott said the bar should be moved upstairs near the restaurant, as most bars associated with restaurants are not on a separate floor.

“The open floor plan allows overflow into the lobby,” she said. “We see the potential for a large area for bar service.”

Scott said she appreciated the restriction on cover charges, but in terms of outdoor games she said “pool polo and things going on like that could elevate the level of noise” especially if alcohol is being served.

Scott also asked Cape Advisors to not place signage advertising the restaurant on the property and said seating around the pool should be clarified.

Amplified music from a sound system or juke box and what acoustic instruments are allowed were another concern Scott expressed, noting enforcement of these noise related issues are difficult and the fines too low.

Agreeing that Cape Advisors was “trying hard to meet our needs,” Scott said neighbors were concerned there was not enough parking and would like mass gatherings limited on the property.

According to planning board chairman Neil Slevin, the board will revisit the matter and discuss issues like parking at its September 25 meeting.

“I think they are all valid concerns,” agreed board member Gregory Ferraris. “I think we have discussed most of them over the last 18 months.”

Ferraris added everything Cape Advisors is requesting is allowed under the village code.

Memories of Bulova

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By Karl Grossman

More than a century ago, my father’s father came from Hungary to America and worked at the watchcase factory built by Joseph Fahys in Sag Harbor. Engraving was a major art among Hungarian Jews and Fahys and his agents would seek out Hungarian Jewish engravers when they arrived at Ellis Island and take them by boat to Sag Harbor.

It was in Sag Harbor where my grandfather met my grandmother. She lived with a sister who married into the Spitz family, several of whose members also worked at the watchcase factory.

We have a photo in our house of my grandfather and grandmother in Sag Harbor after they met — he sporting a straw skimmer hat and she in Victorian Era dress, gazing at each other appearing very much in love.             On one side of the photo is an engraving by him, probably done in his off-hours at the watchcase factory. Etched in metal with flourish: “Stephanie Spiegel, Sag Harbor.” On the other side is a photo of him on a ship on one of his several trips back to Hungary to see his family. They would all be murdered in the Holocaust.

My father and I were born and raised in New York City where my grandparents later moved. My grandfather died before I was born; my grandmother when I was two. Nearly 40 years ago, I ended up settling with my family in Sag Harbor.

Tens of thousands of times since I’ve passed the watchcase factory, the biggest building in Sag Harbor and still in operation when we got here (then owned by Bulova). Last week, for the first time, I went into the four-story building which is being expertly and creatively restored, being converted into a luxury condominium apartment complex.

What struck me immediately were the windows — hundreds upon hundreds of them. You see them from the outside, of course, but only when you get inside the 1881 brick structure can you appreciate what all 700 were for. “Light,” explained my guide, David Kronman, project manager for Cape Advisors. “The factory opened with no electricity.” The windows, each topped by a graceful arch, provided illumination for the workers at benches next to them. Their machines ran on steam power generated at the factory.

Moreover, it’s not a big box of a structure, but built around a huge courtyard. This allowed for many more windows to provide light from the courtyard.

Then there are the beams! The building’s ribs, its skeleton, are of wood — beautiful beams and very large (many 18 by 10 inches). “Southern Yellow Pine,” said Mr. Kronman about what they’re made of. Cape Advisors had them expertly analyzed and the conclusion: they’re in superb condition. Indeed, the building itself, as I heard through the years, is solid.

As we weaved through it, with workers busy all over, Mr. Kronman spoke about the plans for the 65 apartments. The building’s special features — interestingly shaped little rooms here, sweeping spaces there — will be fully utilized, he emphasized. Beams will be left exposed. Even the old factory chimney will be put to use, linked to a fireplace in the lobby. There’ll be underground parking and a recreation center with a pool. We went up to the roof for the best view in Sag Harbor. There was Shelter Island and the waters of the East End and the North Fork, and unfolded below, in seeming miniature, the picturesque village of Sag Harbor. Manhattan-based Cape Advisors specializes in restoring historic structures like this one. The project is in good hands.

It was with a warm feeling I walked the stairs that my grandfather tread many years ago. America has been good to his family. His engraving tools are with my cousin, Dr. Martin Grossman, professor of business management at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. Stephanie’s name lives through my brother, Stefan, and our cousin Steve, world-class musicians. Stefan is a blues guitarist, this week performing in Norway under sponsorship of the U.S. State Department. Steve is a Julliard-educated jazz saxophonist whose career has included playing with Miles Davis.

My grandparent’s great-grandson, our son Adam, graduated from Pierson High School, also an impressive brick structure, a few blocks from the watchcase factory. A lawyer, he is vice chairman of the Southampton Town Zoning Board of Appeals and previously Riverhead Town attorney. I remember, just after we moved to Sag Harbor, the call by some to raze the historic high school (which opened in 1907). Happily, instead it was restored — as the watchcase factory is in the process of being now.

Some Businesses Bothered by Bulova

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Washington St.

The renovation and restoration of the former Bulova Watchcase Factory in the heart Sag Harbor is likely the largest construction project in village history. For planning board chairman, Neil Slevin, it was expected the village would have to work with residents, businesses and the developers, Cape Advisors, to wrangle some of the headaches inherently caused by such large scale construction.

However, not even Slevin anticipated those headaches would be felt so early in the building project’s timeline.

On Tuesday night, at the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, a small group of residents and business owners approached the board with concerns over the impact the Bulova project was having on their businesses and lives.

The Bulova Watchcase Factory restoration and redevelopment is for a 65-unit luxury apartment building in the historic factory building and seven townhouses, which will contain 16 of the units. A recreation center, with indoor pool, spa and an underground parking facility is also planned for the project.

Cape Advisors earned village approval for the project over three years ago, but just recently began clearing the site and erecting a construction fence in anticipation of groundbreaking after earning a new partner in Deutsche Bank this fall.

For Dolores Fenn, a Main Street resident whose house backs onto Church Street, the construction fence that stretches out on the street has made it difficult for her to get her car out of her garage.

On Tuesday night, Fenn said she was moving and was worried a moving van will not be able to access her home.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said that the fence was there for residents’ safety, but Fenn said she felt neighboring property owners should have been personally informed about some the changes taking place during construction.

“It has inconvenienced a lot of people,” she said.

Gilbride agreed all neighbors should have been personally contacted, and noted that the village has created a board led by Slevin to work with Cape Advisors on any issues that come up during construction.

“If someone got missed and we are not aware, call the village clerk tomorrow morning and we will get your number to Neil and if you have a complaint we will handle it,” said Gilbride.

Sharone Einhorn, the co-owner of Ruby Beets antiques and home furnishing store on Washington Street, said she was concerned about the closure of parking on Church Street and four parking stalls on Washington Street.

“We will not be able to receive deliveries and clients will not be able to put things in the cars if they cannot park nearby,” said Einhorn.

She asked the board consider opening Church Street back up for parking in the summer.

“Did you consider the small businesses in Sag Harbor and how this would impact them,” asked Einhorn.

She added the parking problem is compounded by the fact that the municipal lot on Washington and Division streets has become a seven-day-a-week lot, which has translated to people leaving their cars there for days on end.

On Wednesday morning, Einhorn said she would like to see that lot converted into two-hour parking, so that clients have somewhere to park nearby.

Einhorn also questioned how she, and the two other furniture stores on Washington Street, would be able to accept deliveries. Currently, when there is not parking available on Washington Street, as is often the case, trucks double park on Church Street to make their deliveries. Now, said Einhorn, getting deliveries will be difficult at best.

Deputy Mayor Tim Culver acknowledged the village could work to solve some of these issues, but said the village has been diligent in exploring all issues related to construction at Bulova.

“I think we did think about local businesses,” he said. “And the Chamber of Commerce was an advocate for this project and people in general thought it would be a good thing for business in Sag Harbor.”

Nada Barry, owner of the Wharf Shop and longtime member of the Chamber of Commerce, said that with Stella Maris Regional School now closed there is more parking near Division Street. Additional parking, some 80 spaces, added Barry, has also been procured at the former National Grid gas ball property.

On Wednesday, project manager David Kronman said that all of the construction workers at Bulova are currently parking on-site and not in public parking spaces around Sag Harbor.

However, when it is needed, Kronman said his firm has secured parking spaces at St. Andrews Church, Reid Brothers on the Sag Harbor/Bridgehampton Turnpike and at Baron’s Cove.

Kronman, who by late Wednesday morning had already set up meetings with both Einhorn and Fenn, said that working with neighbors was a top priority. His firm had already worked with Sage Street Antiques owner Eliza Warner, he said, to ensure her business had parking spaces on Sage Street when it is open on the weekends.

“There is absolutely a willingness on our part to sit down and solve any problems that arise and make this as painless as possible on everyone,” said Kronman Wednesday morning. “We want to work with all of our neighbors and be creative in coming up with solutions to issues as they arise.”

Sag Trustees Aim to Control Parking During Construction at Bulova & JJML

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When the Sag Harbor Planning Board approved the luxury condominium development at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory three years ago, they probably never suspected that project would coincide with the expansion of the John Jermain Memorial Library.

But that is exactly what has happened.

The expansion of the historic library was only a glimmer in most Sag Harbor Village resident’s eyes when Cape Advisors — the firm approved to construct 65 condos in the factory building — was seeking permission to move forward with their plans. Flash forward three years, following the project stalling under the weight of the housing crisis, and both projects will likely begin just months apart.

On October 25, Cape Advisors, which has partnered with Duetsche Bank on their project, paid the Village of Sag Harbor’s Building Department just over $200,000 in order to obtain their building permit. Since then, the former Watchcase Factory property has been alive with activity as the company gets ready to break ground on their development, which in addition to condos will also feature townhouses along Church Street, the construction of an underground parking garage and a recreational center.

Meanwhile, the library, which is already in its temporary West Water Street home, is just months away from being able to apply for its own building permit for expansion. Restoration of the masonry on the exterior of the 101-year-old library has already been given village approval.

In an attempt to mitigate the traffic concerns associated with both projects, at Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, board members adopted temporary traffic and vehicle regulations that will remain in effect through December 31 of next year.

The Sag Harbor Planning Board in their approvals for both the Bulova condos and the library expansion has already adopted most of the regulations.

According to the resolution, parking will be prohibited on Washington and Church streets to Division Street.  Church Street will also be changed into a northbound-only street from Washington to Sage streets, and parking will no longer be allowed on Sage Street from Division to Church Street. Jefferson Street will be opened into a two way traffic street from Suffolk Street to the library while that road is closed directly adjacent to the library and parking and standing on Union Street next to the library is also prohibited under the resolution.

The village board also agreed to hire engineer Frederick S. Keith, at a rate of $120 per hour, to aid building inspector Timothy Platt in review of construction documents as the Bulova project moves forward.

According to Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride, the village will use the building department fee furnished by Cape Advisors to cover the cost of having Keith under contract.

“It’s the biggest project the village has ever seen and I think the village needs that,” he said.

Geese & Septic Systems Targeted by State

Feeding geese on Sag Harbor Village property may soon be illegal, although don’t blame the village board of trustees— the new local law was introduced under a federal mandate to address stormwater runoff issues nationwide.

On Tuesday night, the board introduced two new local laws — one prohibiting the feeding of geese within the incorporated Village of Sag Harbor. The other requires homeowners to show, via an inspection, that their septic systems are operational every five years.

According to village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr., both are the result of a federal mandate administered through the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) that requires local laws in an effort to mitigate stormwater runoff.

According to Thiele, the septic legislation differs from legislation proposed by the village earlier this year that required regular inspections of septic systems. He said the law does not demand residents show their systems are being pumped regularly, but rather just requires an inspection indicating the systems are functioning properly.

“These laws just get the village into compliance with federal and state regulations,” said Thiele.

Next April, the Village of Sag Harbor will be eligible for $26,000 in Suffolk County Development Block Grants. These are restricted for the construction of improvements like handicap accessible ramps, bathrooms and crosswalks, according to village clerk Beth Kamper.

On Tuesday night, the village board heard from John Jermain Memorial Library Director Catherine Creedon who said that many of her patrons have requested additional handicap parking spaces near the library’s temporary West Water Street home, as well as a crosswalk closer to the library.

Mayor Gilbride asked Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley to explore that possibility, as well as upgrading the bathrooms at Havens Beach.

Bulova Project is Funded; Groundbreaking Expected This Fall

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The long neglected building and property in the center of Sag Harbor Village known as the Bulova Watchcase Factory is intrinsically linked to Sag Harbor’s industrial heritage. For years now, village residents have been left wondering whether a village-approved luxury condominium project would eventually replace the crumbling factory.

This week, residents finally have that answer.

Three years after it was initially approved for a 65-unit luxury condominium project on the parcel, Cape Advisors announced this week it has closed a financing deal with Deutsche Bank, its new partner in the Bulova project.

The deal was struck last Thursday, according to Cape Advisors project manager David Kronman.

In a press release issued on Wednesday afternoon, Cape Advisors and the Deutsche Bank Commercial Real Estate Group announced it has closed on a $60 million investment “to fully fund the development and rehabilitation of the Watchcase Factory Lofts” in Sag Harbor.

Calling the former factory building “a majestic red brick, nineteenth century industrial building,” located on 2.3 acres in the heart of Sag Harbor, the firms said they believe the “vast interior spaces and original architectural details will create a dramatic and unique residential environment.”

“We are extremely pleased that in these difficult economic times we were able to partner with Deutsche Bank in moving forward with this exciting project,” said Craig Wood, co-managing partner of Cape Advisors. “This fall, over 30 years after the Bulova Watchcase Factory closed, we will begin construction to restore this historic building and fully integrate it into the fabric of the Sag Harbor community.”

Kronman said he expects his firm will pull a building permit from the Village of Sag Harbor’s Building Department sometime this week. Ground will be broken on the Bulova project sometime in the next 30 to 60 days, he added. Once construction has begun on the property, the project is expected to take between 18 and 24 months.

“We are obviously really excited,” said Kronman on Tuesday. “We think it is a testament to the project and to Sag Harbor that despite the rough economic climate we were able to secure the financing to get the project built. It speaks to the viability of the project and the faith that exists in the Sag Harbor market.”

“Certainly, I am glad to see this move forward,” said Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride. “I wish them the best and I cannot wait to see this get started.”

The Bulova Watchcase Factory restoration and redevelopment is for a 65 unit luxury apartment building in the historic factory building and seven townhouses, which will contain 16 of the units. A recreation center, with indoor pool, spa and an underground parking facility is also planned for the project.

The factory building, which for 100 years operated as the industrial heart of the village under a number of company banners until its doors were closed in the early 1980s, has long remained dormant. The property, located at Division and Church streets, is a state Superfund site. Remediation is ongoing and required for the apartment project to move forward.

Developers have tried over the years to re-develop the property, without success, until Cape Advisors came along over four years ago.

The firm embarked on a two-year approval process for their plans — easily the largest re-development project in Sag Harbor Village history. What quickly emerged as the central issue during the review was whether or not the developers would include affordable housing on-site as per a requirement of the Suffolk County Planning Commission

Eventually, after much debate, the village planning and zoning board of appeals agreed to overrule the planning commission and accept $2.5 million from Cape Advisors to be funneled into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust.

In a deal reached last month with the village planning board, the affordable housing payment schedule was changed, allowing Cape Advisors to pay into the fund as sales of the units are closed. However, the village will be allowed to accrue interest on a first $582,600 once Cape Advisors secures its building permit.

In addition to affordable housing, the village was criticized and later sued over its environmental review of the Bulova project. While that case was eventually dismissed on a technicality, during the review process and ensuing litigation, the economy tanked worldwide and a housing crisis emerged. Despite continued pledges of support for the Bulova project by Cape Advisors, the Bulova building remained shrouded in scaffolding as two years passed.

All of that will change this fall.

“I am happy and I hope that this project brings life back to that building,” said Mayor Gilbride. “I am also glad in that while construction is happening at Bulova, it will be helpful to our delis, our restaurants, our shops, and the entire village’s economy. So we got a lot of good news this week.”