Tag Archive | "Dennis Suskind"

Dow Closes on Former Church Property

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The last two weeks have been a whirlwind for Elizabeth Dow, but as of Monday morning at 11 a.m. at least one of the artist and businesswoman’s dreams came true. According to Dow’s attorney, Tiffany Scarlato at 11 a.m. on Monday Dow closed on the property that houses the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church with former Southampton Town Councilman Dennis Suskind at his attorney’s Southampton office.

The moment was over a year in the making, and for many residents of Sag Harbor, the end of a saga that began when the United Methodist Church congregation first sold the building to Suskind in 2008 under the financial strain of maintaining a historic church.

“This is the first step,” said Dow on Tuesday afternoon. “The light bill is in my name so hear we go.”

The closing of the $2.1 million sale comes just over a week after entrepreneur Sloan Schaffer announced he had signed a contract with Suskind to purchase the former church property. Unlike Dow, who will move her wall-covering studio and retail shop into the existing building, Schaffer said he hoped to convert the former church into his residence.

On Monday, Schaffer declined to comment on the closing of the sale.

Also on Monday, Suskind said Schaffer was “a back-up buyer” should Dow be unable to go through with the purchase of the Madison Street property.

“It is a common practice,” he added.

Dow has held the contract on the property since last fall. She has long planned to move Elizabeth Dow Mixed Media, a textile and wall covering design firm and studio into the building, which will also hold retail space, the company’s celebrated internship program and an apartment.

Quickly, Dow found community and government support for her plans, which village board members praised for the semi-public use of the treasured historic building, as well as the educational component it offers through her internship program.

Dow, who fittingly has a background in the restoration of 18th century buildings, has also said she will celebrate the history of the church. Her proposal changes almost nothing on the exterior of the building, except that it will once again be clad in wood rather than vinyl siding and will have an additional means of egress.

Dow also hopes to celebrate the church’s history in the lobby of her building, which she has explored cladding with custom made wallpaper depicting historic pictures of the former church building, newspaper articles and historic records. Dow has also proposed to commemorate the history of the building through a sign between the parking area and the entryway that details the history of the building since it was first moved from High Street.

The property is technically in a residential district in the village, however, last December, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees signed off on changing the zoning of the property to Village Business to allow Dow to operate her business in the space.

When the village board adopted the change in zoning, it did place covenant restrictions that will run with the land. The covenants protect the property from ever being developed into a convenience store, bar or tavern, laundromat, dry cleaning business, movie or live theatre, gym, yacht sales center or any kind of food service business.

That change in use won’t become official until Dow secures final approval from the village planning board, which is in the throes of reviewing her application along with the village’s historic preservation and architectural review board and the Suffolk County Department of Health Services.

She will be in front of the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board, next Tuesday, November 22, at 5:30 p.m.

“I have a sense she really has a passion for this building,” said Suskind on Monday afternoon. “I have seen her describe it as ‘her life,’ so I think it is in good hands. Obviously, what I have always wanted is for the building to be in good hands and with someone who will care for it.”

“I wish her all the best,” he added. “I will be one of the first people in line when she opens.”

“It feels good,” said Dow shortly after the closing. “And I can’t wait to get started on this project.”

Dow said she is currently focused on the permit process and finishing up designs for the interior of the church building.

“I am in a little shock right now,” she admitted. “I almost can’t believe it is real yet.”


Move Forward With Plans to Tranform Methodist Church

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by Kathryn G. Menu

It has been several months since residents in Sag Harbor have heard word on the progress of plans by Amagansett artist and businesswoman Elizabeth Dow to transform the former United Methodist Church building on Madison Street into a textile studio, design center and showroom.

Until last week, that is.

Dow presented plans for her adaptive re-use of the former church building to the Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) last Thursday. According to Dow and her attorney Tiffany Scarlato, pending approval from the village boards, as well as the health department, Dow hopes to begin her construction this fall.

“I am on board and very passionate about the adaptive re-use and overall design of this building,” said Dow in a separate interview on Tuesday. “Working with (architects) Bates Masi + Architects has been fantastic and I think our vision is one. I am waiting for the permits and hopefully construction can happen in November.”

In the fall of 2010, Dow contracted to buy the church building from former Southampton Town councilman Dennis Suskind, who bought it from the church congregation in 2008 with plans to turn the space into his own private residence. After contracting with Suskind, Dow proposed to move her company –Elizabeth Dow Mixed Media , a textile and wall covering design firm and studio – to Sag Harbor, where in addition to her studio and retail space she would also host her internship program.

Community members, as well as Sag Harbor village boards quickly supported the project. Dow’s work is celebrated in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, as well as The White House where her wall coverings adorn The Oval Office, as well as the bedrooms of President Barack Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia.

Village board members also praised the semi-public use of the building under Dow’s proposal, that it had an educational component and that the artist planned to celebrate the church’s history in the lobby of her business, making the loss of an important, historic structure to private hands less painful for some community residents.

In December, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees even agreed to let the zoning on the property convert from residential to village business for Dow’s project, although that change in use won’t become official until she secures final approval from the village planning board.

For Dow the warm welcome from the village and its residents only adds to her passion for the project.

“I feel like I am coming home and I wasn’t even counting on that when we first started,” she said.

Last Thursday, after presenting an exhaustive amount of research on the adaptive re-use of historic buildings, and in particular churches, across the country, Dow and architect Paul Masi floated their plans for the renovation of the building to the Sag Harbor ARB.

Dow noted adaptive reuse of historic buildings is seen by many as a key factor in modern day conservation. Preserving the historic integrity of a church, in particular, is critical, said Dow. One of the reason’s she was drawn to 48 Madison Street, she said, was because she would not have to drastically alter a building that holds a special place in so many hearts to accomplish what she needed as a businesswoman.

One of her biggest goals is to ensure the construction will guarantee the stable, and long-term use, of the former church building.

Noting that many early churches were not historically painted white, Dow has proposed to remove the existing white, vinyl siding and replace it with cedar, which Masi said would weather into a grey color.

The windows, many of which are covered from the exterior, will also be replaced, and an existing residence at the rear of the building will be renovated to compliment the rest of the building, said Masi.

Dow also proposes to commemorate the history of the building through a sign between the parking area and the entryway that details the history of the building since it was first moved from High Street. She also showed the board wallpaper she had crafted that afternoon, out of historic images and text about the church, which she may paper the building’s lobby with.

“Very cool,” said board chairman Cee Scott Brown.

To achieve a second means of egress, as required by the building department, Masi has proposed a transparent staircase in the rear yard of the building, which will be covered in climbing plants that keep foliage year-round, becoming a part of the overall landscape plan for the lawn adjacent to the building.

That structure is the only aspect of the project that will need a variance from the village’s zoning board. Brown said Scarlato could inform that board that the Sag Harbor ARB stood firmly behind the concept, relieved Dow didn’t propose a fire escape instead.

Sag Harbor resident Sam Patton is designing the landscape for the property.

“We are trying to make it non-architectural and more of a garden piece,” said Masi.

“This is really a great project because it will bring the building back to life,” said Scarlato.

“This is very thoughtful and researched,” said Brown. “I think it is fantastic.”


Sag Harbor’s Methodist Church Sold Again

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By Kathryn G. Menu


The former United Methodist Church on Madison Street in Sag Harbor is in a solid contract to be sold to Elizabeth Dow, an artist and businesswoman in Amagansett, for just over $2 million according to several sources close to the deal.

On Monday, Dennis Suskind – a former Southampton Town Councilman and Goldman Sachs executive, who purchased the historic church in 2008 for a reported $2.9 million – declined to comment on the sale, deferring any comments to Dow.

Dow did not return calls for comment. Neither did Scott Strough, of Strough Real Estate, Suskind’s exclusive real estate brokerage firm.

While Suskind maintained upon his original purchase of the property that he intended to make the over 170-year-old structure his family residence, after briefly owning the property he placed it back on the market for a reported $3.5 million.

Sag Harbor resident and attorney Linda Mintz expressed interest in converting the property into a 15-unit bed and breakfast, but was deterred by village officials who questioned the number of units Mintz hopes to use on the property as suitable for the residentially zoned location.

According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, even celebrated musician Billy Joel toured the building in hopes of creating a studio space, however, it has remained dormant and for sale since Suskind purchased the property, until now.

While Dow’s plans for the building remain unclear, the artist and businesswoman is the director and Amagansett Applied Arts and the owner of Mixed Media Art Supply, located in Amagansett Square. She is also the founder of Elizabeth Dow Mixed Media, a textiles and wall coverings company.

That company, which was started some 20 years ago out of Dow’s New York City apartment, has blossomed into a firm that creates couture and accessible hand painted textiles and wall coverings, as well as internship opportunities lending an educational front to the company’s roster.

Since 1992, Dow has provided internship opportunities through her company to students and recent college graduates interested in art and design with approximately 20 to 30 students selected each year. The program has been rated as being one of the top 100 American internships by The Princeton Review.

In turn, under Dow’s leadership, Amagansett Applied Arts hosts a variety of comprehensive art classes for the young and old, including writing.

The former United Methodist Church, which the congregation sold due to mounting costs of maintaining the building, is zoned residential, meaning any commercial aspect included in Dow’s plans would require a change of zoning by Sag Harbor Village officials, although as of press time plans had yet to be formally presented to the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees.

Resident Would Like to Convert Former Methodist Church into a B&B

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Sag Harbor resident and attorney Linda Mintz approached the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees on Tuesday night with an informal plan to convert the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church into a 15-room bed and breakfast. However, board members expressed concern about the concept, questioning whether it would be an appropriate use for the historic, and now vacant, structure. On Tuesday, November 10 Mintz said she was interested in purchasing the church from Bridgehampton resident and former chairman of Goldman Sachs Dennis Suskind, who bought the building two years ago from the Methodist Church congregation for close to $3 million. Pastor Tom MacLeod said the congregation could not afford repairs and upkeep of the historic structure and needed to make the sale in order to afford construction of a new, more affordable, church off Carroll Street. While Suskind originally intended to convert the church into a single-family residence, he later put the church back on the market and it has sat dormant for the last two years. On Tuesday, Mintz noted the building was a registered historic landmark and very important to village residents. She proposed converting the structure, which is zoned residential, into a high-end bed and breakfast. “There is a lot of history as far as converting historic buildings into B & Bs,” said Mintz, adding she believed the project could be beneficial to businesses, specifically those located near the church at an often less-traveled portion of the village business district. “Unfortunately, the code doesn’t really allow for that type of use in that type of structure,” she said. Mintz said the simplest way around the code, should the village support the idea, would be for the board to change the definition of a bed in breakfast to allow for more rooms in larger structures. “To me, I don’t know any B & B is 15 rooms,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride, to the agreement of a majority of the board. Trustee Tiffany Scarlato added there was a lot of public resistance to allowing smaller bed and breakfasts in residential neighborhoods. Mintz noted the 1708 House in Southampton Village has 15 rooms and the 1770 House in East Hampton boasts 10. Both are located in residential districts and despite its closeness to Main Street, the church is in a residential section of the village. “The problem is the use is so limited and we have a landmarked building sitting there vacant,” said Mintz. On Wednesday, Mintz said she felt the village has long needed a boutique bed and breakfast and when she looked at plans drawn up for Suskind by Fred Stelle architects for the church, felt it was a perfect fit. “I would think the village would welcome this use instead of it being a private residence,” said Mintz. “This way it is good for businesses and open to the public.” Mintz said Tuesday’s meeting did not deter her completely, and she planned to explore the concept further with her attorneys. However, an uphill battle is not something she is interested in, she added. “If it looks like I am trying to push a pebble up Mount Everest, I will not proceed,” she said. Sewers & Budget In other news, the village repealed and adopted a new sewer law to make the legislation in line with state law. According to attorney Frederick Eisenbud, who represents the village regarding the sewer system, changing the law involves defining the use of private septic systems as a part of the sewer district. Ted Conklin, owner of The American Hotel, urged the board not to pass the new law, noting a major aspect of an ongoing lawsuit between some member of the sewer district and the village is that just 10 percent of the village – those currently hooked up to the system – pay for the sewage treatment plant. He said passage would result in ongoing legal battles and expenses. “This is a very complicated thing, but our side is more than willing to sit down and discuss practical resolutions to this,” said Conklin. The board ultimately did repeal the old law and enact the new law, despite Conklin’s protest. Village Treasurer Eileen Tuohy informed the board that the village is currently looking at a budget shortfall of $40,000 to $45,000 for the fiscal year 2009-2010, for the most part as a result of mortgage tax revenues and interest on investments not bringing in what the village budget anticipated it would. She will present the board with a complete report in January. The board also adopted a new law designating bike lanes on a route around the village business district, from Glover Street to Long Island Avenue, which connects with Route 114, and on an alternate route from Spring Street to Bridge Street to Long Island Avenue. Lastly, the board agreed to hire Bob Bori as the new village harbor master after Ed Swenson announced his resignation earlier this month. Bori, who owns a landscaping business, is a former Sag Harbor Village Fire Department Chief, former officer with the Southampton Town Police and lives in the village.