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Unopposed Incumbents Keep Their Seats, As Sag Harbor Elects its First Village Justice in Decades

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East Hampton Town Supervisor candidate for the Independence and Democratic Parties, Zachary Cohen, talks with Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, Trustee Bruce Stafford and Sag Harbor Justice Andrea Schiavoni shortly before Gilbride and Schiavoni were re-elected to their positions in an uncontested village election Tuesday night.

It may have been an uncontested election Tuesday night in the Village of Sag Harbor, but what residents may not have realized while casting their ballots was it was also a historic vote.

andreaschiavoni

Andrea Harum Schiavoni became the first elected Justice for the Village of Sag Harbor since the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees debuted the village’s own justice court last December. Schiavoni, who was appointed as the village justice by Mayor Brian Gilbride last fall, is the first Sag Harbor justice elected in the village in decades.

Schiavoni earned 58 votes in Tuesday’s election. Including four absentee ballots, a total of 63 votes was cast in uncontested race for village justice, as well as village mayor and for two trustee seats.

Prior to the polls closing at the Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department on Brick Kiln Road, Schiavoni – who also serves as a Southampton Town Justice and practices out of the Sag Harbor branch of her deceased father’s firm, Harum & Harum – was reluctant to even discuss possible victory, despite a lack of contenders for her position.

“I have never been unopposed before, so let’s just see,” she said. “I won’t quite believe it until it happens.”

After the votes we tallied, she admitted she is simply pleased to continue to be a part of the court, and its development, as it moves out of its infancy.

“It has been working so well, I am just so happy to be able to continue what we have started here, to make sure we get to the point where it moves like clockwork,” said Schiavoni.

Six months after the creation of the court, Schiavoni said she is prepping for the busiest time of the year, but that opening the court in December was done intentionally, so everyone could get their feet wet before the summer season, which naturally comes with more court cases.

“The more we do it, the easier it flows,” she said.

Schiavoni was not alone on the Sag Harbor Party banner, of course. Mayor Brian Gilbride, Deputy Mayor Tim Culver and Trustee Ed Gregory easily retained their seats on the board.

Gregory received the most votes, earning 59 in his favor. Gregory was followed by Gilbride who earned 55 votes and Culver, who nabbed 55.

“It was what I expected,” said Gilbride after the results were announced. “I never expected to get all 63 votes and I shouldn’t. I remember in the 1970s, (former Southampton Town Supervisor) Marty Lang said, ‘In this job, you make enemies and you lose friends.’ When all is said and done, I work for the village and I am happy to do it.”

Gilbride Takes Office, Appoints Stein and Makes Changes

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trustees

During his first meeting as mayor of the Village of Sag Harbor on Monday, Brian Gilbride announced appointments to the various village boards, including the addition of former mayor Greg Ferraris to the planning board.

Gilbride named Bethany Deyermond, a member of the Sag Harbor Historical Society and wife of former mayor and trustee Ed Deyermond, to the village historic preservation and architectural review board in place of longtime board member Robert Tortora. Gilbride also tapped Gail Pickering to lead the village’s zoning board of appeals. Pickering replaces board chairman Michael Bromberg, who said this week he intends to fulfill the remainder of his one-year term on the board.

Gilbride, an incumbent trustee, was elected to lead the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees in June besting both Bromberg and local attorney and author Jim Henry in a contentious mayoral battle.

gilbride Tim Culver, a land use and real estate attorney, received the most votes of any candidate in his bid for a seat on the board of trustees. Culver and incumbent trustee Ed Gregory were also sworn in on Monday, along with Robby Stein, who Gilbride appointed to serve the remainder of his one-year trustee term on the board. Stein placed third in the election behind Culver and Gregory, with Sag Harbor native and real estate agent Jane Holden finishing fourth.

Gilbride, who served as village deputy mayor under Ferraris, named Trustee Tiffany Scarlato as his new deputy mayor on Monday.

 Even so many changes, much will remain the same with Sag Harbor Village government, with Gilbride having appointed Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Anthony Tohill as village council, Richard Warren as environmental planner and Paul Grosser as village engineer. However, with the appointment of Ferraris, Deyermond and Pickering to new posts in village government, Gilbride said he was pleased to see the new face of the village boards.

Ann Hansen, a 15-year veteran of the planning board, resigned last month leaving an opening for Ferraris who chose not to seek re-election in the last mayoral race.

“There is a lot of activity on that board now,” said Gilbride on Tuesday, noting the planning board has been contending with a number of large-scale development applications and will be facing the implementation of a new village code. “Greg wanted to stay involved and he has been instrumental in a lot of what has been going on in the village.”

“I have a great respect of the members of the planning board, and in Neil Slevin’s leadership as chairman,” said Ferraris on Tuesday. “Brian asked me and I feel it is a great opportunity to work with this board on the new code.”

Ferraris said he intends to bring the same “case-by-case” attitude to his position on the planning board as he did as mayor of Sag Harbor.

“I don’t have a predetermined agenda going into this, but I do think the new code will speak for itself and shape the way we deal with development in this village,” he said.

Gilbride’s appointment of Bethany Deyermond to the ARB means longtime member Tortora will no longer have a seat on the board, although Gilbride on Tuesday thanked Tortora for his service, saying it was time for that board to take a new direction under his administration.

“I personally thanked Bob for his service and I think he has done a good job,” Gilbride said. “I am just looking to move in a slightly different direction. I think Bethany can do that. She will work well with the board, she has experience as a member of the historical society and the Sag Harbor Ladies Village Improvement Society and she has done a great job restoring her own home.”

Tortora was disappointed at Gilbride’s choice, lamenting that he would not be a part of a board whose mission he treasures.

“I thought I was pretty darn good at it,” he said. “I really thought I did my best for the village and worked hard to make a difference.”

The local contractor, who said he has invested his professional life into ensuring Sag Harbor’s historic architecture is preserved, questioned why he was removed from the board and said he would still weigh his options. He hopes to stay involved with the cause he holds so close to his heart.

“It is my livelihood to preserve this village,” he said. “I moved here and invested in this place because it is so unique. My only recourse now is to ensure I can stay involved.”

Gilbride also replaced Bromberg as chairman of the zoning board with current board member Pickering, although Bromberg, unlike Tortora, will fulfill the remainder of his one-year term on the zoning board.

“I believe she is an independent thinker and has always done a great job for the village,” Gilbride said of the appointment. “I think Gail brings a level of expertise we need right now.”

“I think Gail will do a great job,” Bromberg said on Tuesday, who added he had no intention of stepping down from the board as of now.

Pickering, who was on the village planning board from 1990 to 1999, serving as chairman from 1995 to 1999, went on to serve on the East Hampton Town’s planning board from 2000 through 2006 before returning to Sag Harbor to serve on the zoning board of appeals.

“I knew Bulova was coming and I wanted input on the big projects,” said the licensed architect on Tuesday, referring to the now approved luxury condo project at the historic Bulova Watchcase Factory in the center of the village.

“I am honored to be appointed to the position,” she added. “I have enjoyed working with the current board and I appreciate all the comments input and expertise my fellow board members have to offer. The mayor has made his decision and I appreciate his confidence in me.”

Outside of the zoning board of appeals, the chairmanship of every other village board remains the same with Neil Slevin tapped to continue his position as head of the planning board, Cee Scott Brown appointed to lead the ARB and Bruce Tait appointed to helm the Harbor Committee.

Glbride Wins in Landslide With Culver and Gregory

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web Heller_Sag Mayoral Elections 09_5864

Brian Gilbride was elected mayor of Sag Harbor in the village’s first contested election in seven years on Tuesday night, earning almost twice the number of votes as candidates Michael Bromberg and Jim Henry in the race to lead the board of trustees.

Incumbent trustee Ed Gregory and political newcomer Tim Culver were elected to fill the two open trustee seats. Gregory and Gilbride ran on the same ticket, with Culver supporting Gilbride’s candidacy for mayor while canvassing the village just days before the election.

Gilbride, 61, won the mayoral race with 350 votes. He was followed by Bromberg, the village’s zoning board of appeals chairman, who earned 192 votes. Henry, an author and activist, received 169 votes. Sag Harbor’s new mayor is a 15-year member of the board of trustees and a 40-year veteran of the Sag Harbor Fire Department. A native of Sag Harbor, he is currently employed with Emil Norsic and Sons sanitation services.

Culver, 40, received the most votes of any candidate in either the trustee or mayoral races, earning 412 votes in the contest. A land-use and real estate attorney, this is Culver’s first run at elected office.

Gregory, 63, received 340 votes. A board member from 1978 to 1992, he returned to the board in 2003.

Dr. Robby Stein earned 291 votes and real estate agent Jane Holden received 234.

According to Sag Harbor Village Clerk Sandra Schroeder, 731 ballots were cast on Tuesday, with 37 absentee ballots. Two write-in votes were cast, one for Stanley Martin and one for village Superintendent of Public Works Jim Early.

For the last seven years, the village has had uncontested elections, leading to low voter turnout. While this year’s 731 ballots is a marked increase over those turnouts, it is fairly close to the voter turnout seen in previous contested elections. In 2001, 885 ballots were cast, the most in the last 15 years of elections.

Shortly after the results were announced at the Sag Harbor Fire Department headquarters on Brick Kiln Road, Gilbride was surrounded by supporters, members of the board of trustees and mayor Greg Ferraris, who supported Gilbride’s candidacy after deciding not to seek a third term.

 “I am thrilled,” said Ferraris. “I think the voters who came out saw what we were able to do as a board. Really, we are a very small village, and I think this board has been realistic about what we can accomplish. This new five-member board is one that I think will be able to move us forward. Tim Culver is obviously a tremendous asset to add to the board of trustees.”

Bromberg, who left the firehouse for a private gathering at his residence, shook Gilbride’s hand and congratulated him on his win.

Henry’s supporters gathered at Bay Burger, just down the street from the firehouse, following the announcement of the results.

 “We didn’t have the result we wanted, but we learned something about our community,” said Henry, noting Gilbride has put in many years of service to the village and “in that sense he deserves to be mayor.”

Henry said he believed his candidacy brought a number of issues to the forefront of village discussions, in particular water quality at Havens Beach, and his concerns about the ability of the current village budget to handle projects necessary for the village in years to come.

Henry said the election was also successful in getting out new voters, a victory in itself.

 “Sag Harbor is going to take care of itself,” said Henry. “Sag Harbor will be fine. Jim Henry will be fine.”

Henry, who lost a Southampton Supervisor’s race by just 53 votes two years ago, said he plans to remain an active member of the community, but was unsure whether he would continue to seek a political career.

 “I will go back to teaching and writing and making a nuisance as a civil rights attorney,” said Henry.

 “I would rather have had it this way,” said Gilbride of his win in a contested race. “We have too many village elections where there is no competition. Michael Bromberg and I were cordial through the whole process.”

Gilbride credited the current board of trustees and Mayor Ferraris with his win, noting it was a board that worked well together.

 “This was really a team effort,” said Gilbride.

He also gave kudos to Culver.

 “I am not a self promoter,” admitted Gilbride. “Tim had great organization behind him and near the end we got supportive of each other.”

Looking at the new board, Gilbride said it was one he believes will work as well together, noting the trustee race presented voters with four qualified candidates who often agreed on a number of issues.

 “The trustee race, it was fun,” agreed Culver. “It was kind of what you hope in a local election.”

Announcing that board member Tiffany Scarlato will serve as his deputy mayor, Gilbride said he has yet to decide how he will fill his vacant seat. Gilbride’s seat as a trustee will carry a one-year term.

 “I am sure one of the candidates that ran will stand a good chance,” hinted Gilbride, who added he would like the result to ultimately be a full-board decision.

Later in the evening, Gilbride addressed a second crowd at The American Hotel, at an election bash hosted by Ted Conklin attended by a number of village residents and board members.

“This was just a great group of people running for one cause,” said Gilbride. “To do good for the village.”

Endorsements

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This year, residents in Sag Harbor are faced with one of the most difficult elections in recent history, as the village says good-bye to a mayor almost everyone agrees has been an excellent leader through some of the more challenging years this village has faced.

With the departure of mayor Greg Ferraris and long-time board member Ed Deyermond, the board of trustees stands to change quite drastically during what we envision will be years that continue to be dominated by development concerns, a lagging economy, a desire for preservation, the hope for sustainability and the goal of finding a balance so we may maintain our wonderfully vibrant village.

The four trustee candidates — Tim Culver, Ed Gregory, Jane Holden and Robby Stein — have largely been in agreement on these core issues facing our community, their interactions more like a summit than a debate. All strong candidates with a variety of strengths, Culver stood out among the pack as the candidate who best understood the financial limitations of a village government, while also possessing zoning and planning experience this board will surely benefit from as we move into the future. Culver has demonstrated an uncanny ability to bring consensus and has a strong grasp on village history and issues. His is, by far, the easiest endorsement this paper has had to make this election season.

Gregory, Holden and Stein all have strengths that would benefit a number of boards. Gregory’s experience as a trustee gives him, like Culver, the insight into what village government has the ability to accomplish and what projects need to be funded through grants or high levels of government. His commitment to environmental issues is apparent in conversation, as is his commitment to the community and willingness to look outside his own opinions. Holden has a real estate background that would undoubtedly aid the village as it moves forward with its village business district code and begins to tackle the residential code. A proven fundraiser and daughter of Sag Harbor, Holden also understands financial realities facing a number of area seniors, a necessity in this economy. The election of Stein would bring a new perspective to the board of trustees. His focus on human services would be a welcome addition to village government, so often focused elsewhere. Like Culver, Stein is a proven consensus builder, a plus as this new board will have to grapple with issues like affordable housing, the remediation at Havens Beach, a new zoning code, environmental sustainability and development projects in coming years.

Despite all their strengths, ultimately The Express feels Gregory deserves our support. Admittedly, going into our endorsement interview we were concerned about his enthusiasm regarding his position as trustee and what he would want to bring to the village if elected. By the end of that discussion, and watching him throughout the campaign, we were impressed with his specific, albeit not grand, plans for sustainability and preservation, and ultimately feel the experience he brings to the table cannot be discounted under the circumstances. We urge residents to support both Culver and Gregory in the coming election.

The mayoral race was much more difficult, as no true leader emerged from our trio of candidates throughout the campaign. Henry brings a vigor to his candidacy that is admirable at times and a gifted orator, we enjoyed hearing his visions for the future of Sag Harbor. However, his lack of experience in government and specifically in Sag Harbor government made an endorsement of his candidacy one we could not offer. We encourage Henry to remain a part of the dialogue and would welcome his involvement in solving some of the issues this community stands to face.

Bromberg and Gilbride have the experience we feel is necessary to lead this board of trustees through certainly challenging times. A chairman of the zoning board of appeals, Bromberg has an obvious love and passion for Sag Harbor, defending it as he does on a monthly basis. His commitment to affordable housing and the environment is one we can stand behind and we enjoy the fact that Bromberg can be found at municipal and community meetings alike. It’s a depth we wish more candidates embraced.

Gilbride has served as deputy mayor under mayor Ferraris for three years and has exhibited a care for this village and its residents in each move he has made as a board member. A family-man, and certainly a member of “old Sag Harbor” Gilbride possesses a knowledge of what the average citizen is facing in Sag Harbor — rising tax bills from the federal, state, county and town governments in the face of a fixed income for many. He understands the need for projects like the remediation of Havens Beach, but also realizes the need for a fiscally conservative budget as our nation is in the throes of a recession. It is for this reason that Gilbride, narrowly, edges out Bromberg for our endorsement.

Ultimately, in the next two years, The Express envisions a board of trustees comprised of five members, each bringing something different to the table and none possessing absolute authority. For this reason, if elected, we would encourage Gilbride to appoint Stein to his vacant seat. We feel the election of Gilbride, Culver and Gregory with the appointment of Stein will provide a balance to this board that the community is searching for.  

Four Trustee Candidates Find Common Ground

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The four candidates seeking two seats on the Village of Sag Harbor Board of Trustees have varied backgrounds and professional experience — an attorney, a real estate agent, a child psychologist and a board veteran with well over a decade of government experience under his belt.

Ed Gregory

Despite their professional differences, the candidates came together for a group interview on Friday, and appeared to find common ground on issues they believe the village will face in coming years, engaging in an easygoing back-and-forth debate about the future of Sag Harbor.

Robby Stein, a child psychologist and board member for the not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor, believes he brings to the table his willingness to serve the village, not only as a board member, but also as a resident involved in a number of local organizations. A background in human services, and informational technology are other strengths Stein said would serve him well.

Jane Holden

“Some of the things I think are different than what has already been done in the village is I have an awareness of health services, which I think is important,” said Stein. “I think it’s important that we get information out there.”

“I have been a zoning and real estate attorney for 15 years,” said Tim Culver, who helped members of the village’s business community review the village’s newly adopted zoning code while it was being revised.

Culver said the technical knowledge that comes with his background would be an asset to the community. Additionally, his ability to facilitate dialogue would be another resource he could draw upon. Culver said his experience building a billion-dollar business would also be an asset.

Tim Culver

“Part of government is spending money and knowing how to spend it wisely,” he said.

Incumbent trustee Ed Gregory brings 20 years experience as a board member to the table, having served on the board for close to 15 years in the 1980s and 1990s before taking his seat back on the board in 2003.

“To be honest with you, I have simple aspirations,” said Gregory. “I don’t think in these economic times we can have big plans to do big things.”

In addition to seeking a grant to repair the fence at the Old Burial Ground, Gregory said he would like to see a waterfront walkway in the village completed, as well as an initiative to make the various municipal buildings more sustainable through implementing the results of a Long Island Power Authority energy audit completed last year.

Robby Stein

“I work well with others, otherwise I wouldn’t be here for 20 years,” said Gregory.

Real estate agent Jane Holden is a lifelong resident of Sag Harbor, having worked in the village as a real estate agent for 29 years.

She said her background as a paralegal and an appraiser would aid the village should she be elected to the board, particularly on the affordable housing front.

“I also realize what it takes to get people into homes,” she said. “Real estate to me is solving a public need, and I think I can bring something very positive to this board.”

Holden added her experience with National Grid as a member of the board of the nearby Harbor Close Condominiums will be an asset as the village continues a working relationship with the utility over a recently completed remediation project on Long Island Avenue.

Most notably the revision of the village’s zoning code for the commercial portion of Sag Harbor has been a focus of the board of trustees as of late. Part of the impetus for that work was insuring a vibrant business district could be maintained in the village.

“We need to listen to what the business people have to say,” said Holden.

While Culver said he is not sure he agrees entirely with the newly adopted code, he said the village has done a good job in bringing all stakeholders together in an effort to find some sort of consensus.

“I think the vision is for a vibrant, retail space,” said Culver, adding finding a way to keep businesses in Sag Harbor unique – with possibly a focus on art or the environment – could be a way to ensure the business district remains vital.

Gregory countered he was unsure it was government’s role to dictate what should encompass Sag Harbor’s downtown, but agreed the village was unique and that is what makes it special.

“Our role was to pass an updated zoning code that gives the business owners some focus as to what we would like to see in the village,” said Gregory, adding the village has done its best to try and protect existing businesses by legislating a code that will discourage big box stores from coming into the village.

“I think what the zoning code has attempted to do is expedite the process for the village businesses,” said Stein.

 “I think everyone here agrees we do not want to dictate what businesses are here, but we want to give businesses an opportunity to thrive here,” said Stein later, much to the agreement of all four candidates.

Affordable housing is also at the forefront of all four candidate’s minds, with downtown Sag Harbor continuing to be a place too expensive for many year round residents to afford to live in.

Gregory reminded that his board founded the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust. The fund – which has already been promised $2.5 million should the approved Bulova condos be constructed – Gregory said, would help fund down payments and low interest loans for families seeking affordable housing in the Sag Harbor Union Free School District.

“There are homes available,” said Holden. Holden added the village also needs to look into legalizing accessory apartments, which would enable homeowners to have a second income that would make it financially possible for them to own homes. She cautioned the village against regulating who can rent these accessory units.

Stein agreed there are a number of properties in the village practically tailor-made for apartments with owners who are unable to afford the rising cost of living in Sag Harbor.

“The thing I get nervous about, and I don’t disagree Bulova was a good project, was relying on developers to fund affordable housing can be a dangerous game because you end up in this catch-22,” said Culver. “I think [mayor] Greg [Ferraris] and the board have done a great job trying to explore ways to fund that and it doesn’t take a lot of money to fund.”

Culver and Gregory agreed that prioritizing volunteers, teachers and police was a good goal.

“And it also allows you to negotiate better contracts with your employees,” added Culver, to the agreement of the other candidates. “You can say, ‘Listen, I know the going wage is this, but we can offer you housing.’ So it has an overall positive effect.”

Other projects and issues Holden would like to tackle, if elected, in the next two years include looking at the drainage problem at Havens Beach and seeking to acquire the Long Island Avenue property currently owned by National Grid, which she feels she is equipped to handle. Holden added if the National Grid property is kept a parking lot she would like to see it constructed as a green lot, with plenty of drainage.

Gregory said one of the things he would like to take on is traffic calming around the schools through the Safe Routes to School program. He would like to also see bike paths created around the village as a way to alleviate parking concerns in the downtown. Energy saving, in the municipal buildings in particular, is also a priority.

Culver would like to continue work on the zoning code, and said the village would need to continue to be mindful of the budget.

“I think residents should be proud,” said Culver. “Our neighbors are having issues, but we have kept things pretty tight.”

Culver said he would also like to explore addressing drainage at Havens Beach, and as far as parking goes he would be interested to see if a municipal valet could be a revenue source for the village.

Stein said he would like to tackle a number of those issues, but he would also like to explore affordable ways of increasing health care education for seniors in Sag Harbor by providing a resource through a health care professional to help teach seniors about what their healthcare options are.

Stein said he would like to see the village involved with the myriad of volunteer organizations in attempts to solve issues like greening in the village, bike paths and development issues.

“I think this is a difficult election because this is a body of agreeable people,” said Stein, looking around the table.

 

 

 

 

Last Time for Grievance Day?

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On Tuesday afternoon, Sag Harbor Mayor Greg Ferraris, trustees Brian Gilbride and Ed Gregory, and Village Hall Registrar Sandra Schroeder sat in the Municipal Building’s meeting room and waited for local residents to grieve their property tax assessments. The afternoon is referred to as ‘Grievance Day,’ and gives village property owners, who believe their properties have been over assessed, the chance to plea their case before the village board.

Overall, there were only three visitors, or grievers, who made it on Tuesday. According to Ferraris, this number was a little less than in previous years, but he added that a reassessment was done a few years ago. A number of grievances were mailed in and then forwarded to the Southampton Town Assessors office. These grievances, along with the claims of the three visitors, will be reviewed by the Southampton Town Assessors office, as the village doesn’t have an independent assessing office. The Southampton Town Assessment review board will be in charge of reviewing the grievances.
Hugh Merle, a lawyer from Westhampton, came before the board to present a village resident’s claim. Before taking on cases of over assessed property, Merle hires a licensed real estate appraiser to do a thorough appraisal, at the expense of the property owner.

“I want all of my ducks in a row before I present [the case] to the board,” said Merle. “Or else it’s not worth doing.”

This was the first time Merle represented a Sag Harbor property owner, since he usually handles assessments in Westhampton. Sometimes, reported Merle, he will come before the board on behalf of ten to fifteen different clients.

This might be the last year the Sag Harbor village board will hold a Grievance Day. After East Hampton Town completes a town wide assessment at one-hundred percent assessment value, the village board will likely be removed as an assessing unit. With the current process, there is duplication because each grievance case presented to the village is always forwarded to Southampton Town.

“Even though [Grievance Day] is our duty, it is somewhat of a waste of taxpayer money,” said Ferraris. “But until the town of East Hampton completes an assessment, we will continue to hold a Grievance Day.”