By Stephen J. Kotz
The relationship between two developers who want to build a condominium project on Sag Harbor’s waterfront, which seemed to be thawing in recent months, has plunged back into the deep freeze.
Michael Maidan and Emil Talel, the principals in East End Ventures, who have recently proposed a scaled back eight-unit condo project on their property at 1,3,5 Ferry Road, have reinstated a federal suit against the village.
The reason for the renewal of legal hostilities is twofold, they say. First, they are upset that Mayor Brian Gilbride hired a contractor to remove a derelict dock on the waterfront of their property and second, they claim that the village has been trying to confiscate their property, or at least delay their project, by claiming ownership of a portion that was a former Metropolitan Transit Authority right-of-way.
“We resolved the last lawsuit with the understanding that the village was going to allow us to proceed with our development,” said Sam Israel, the developers’ attorney. But since last summer, “the mayor started making noises about owning a piece of our property and he had someone come onto the property and destroy a dock.”
“To make a long story short, all we want to do is do the right thing in the village,” said Mr. Maidan on Tuesday. “We want to build you a park. If you want an easement to the water, no problem. We’ll give it to you.”
“We want to show them we are nice people. We don’t want anything that doesn’t belong to us,” he added. “We are trying to do a very nice project, a very scaled down project that meets zoning.”
Village attorney Fred W. Thiele Jr. said on Wednesday that the village was within its legal rights to remove the dock, which, he said, was in danger of collapse and could have posed a major liability issue to the village because it claims ownership of the underwater land there.
He added that although East End Ventures purchased a strip of land that was the former Route 114 from the MTA at auction several years ago, outbidding the village in the process, the village had since uncovered an easement the MTA gave it to the property, rendering that purchase moot.
He said the first step in untangling the legal mess was to determine the ownership of the Route 114 right-of-way.
“It’s not that big, but it is critical,” said Mr. Israel of the right-of-way. “Take it away and it craters the whole thing.”
Mr. Thiele acknowledged that East End Ventures had withdrawn their suit earlier, but he said they did so only after “98 percent of it was dismissed.”
East End Ventures purchased the property nestled between the 7-Eleven convenience store and the North Haven Bridge in 2005. The developers at first proposed to build 22 condo units on the site, but that plan engendered fierce resistance from the community.
The village later declared a moratorium while it updated its zoning code, and Mr. Maidan and Mr. Talel have claimed in court papers they had at first been assured they would be allowed to proceed with their project under existing zoning, only to be told later they would have to meet the new stricter limits. In the meantime, they claim the conversion of the old Bulova factory into the Watchase condominiums was moving along smoothly.
Last fall, East End Ventures presented a new plan calling for the construction of only eight condos to the village Planning Board as a discussion item. The board has yet to entertain a formal application.