Tag Archive | "Long Wharf"

Harbor Committee to Keep an Eye on Long Wharf

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees plans to move forward with small improvements and maintenance to Long Wharf now that the landmark and former county road officially belongs to the village.

This week, citing their belief that a long-term plan should be created surrounding its use and development, the Harbor Committee announced it would keep the wharf on its monthly agenda. Members also encouraged the public to attend monthly meetings to share their ideas about the future of the wharf.

Last month, the Harbor Committee sent a memo to the village board requesting it be allowed to lead public hearings on the future of Long Wharf. Now that the village owns the wharf, the idea, said chairman Bruce Tait, was to create a long-term plan to develop the wharf in a way residents would like to see it utilized.

In the trustees response to that memo, dated February 25, village clerk Beth Kamper said the village is working on a plan for improvements using an engineering report developed by Paul Grosser and the trustees would discuss these ideas in public meetings. Kamper said the board welcomed any suggestions or concerns the committee had in the meantime.

“What I take from this letter is that the trustees are not inclined to have us hold public meetings on the future of Long Wharf,” said Tait at Monday’s committee meeting.

However, Tait did instruct building department secretary Doris Alvarez to place the wharf on the committee’s monthly agenda and encouraged public participation.

“Rather than take this as an adversarial position, we should take this as an opportunity to explore ideas on what the vision of Long Wharf should be and we should try and take that and share those ideas with the trustees,” he continued.

According to a memo prepared by Grosser, necessary and basic improvements to Long Wharf to improve functioning, safety, and to continue to make it viable for the village, have been divided over 10 years based on a $100,000 annual budget for the wharf.

In 2013, the plan suggests asphalt removal, steel sheeting repair, back filling and compaction, installation of water and electric utilities on marine pedestals, lighting, asphalt repair for 391 linear feet of bulkhead and new ladders. Accomplishing that in 2013 will cost an estimated $173,095.

Over a 10-year period of time, according to Grosser’s memo, it will cost $1,517,046 to repair and maintain Long Wharf, including the replacement of its bulkhead, the creation of a concrete sidewalk and the installation of a cable railing along the bulkhead.

“It’s marginally better, but pretty much the way it has been for the last 30 years,” said Tait, adding he believes as one of Sag Harbor’s most important assets, the village should be looking forward at making the wharf better than it is today.

The committee sent the trustees a memo requesting Inter-Science Research Associates preliminary study on how Long Wharf could be improved for the better — a study completed during the administration of former mayor Greg Ferraris.

“I would like to look at those as a starting point for discussions,” said Tait. “I personally have seen the designs and they were very, very good.”

Offering the support of Save Sag Harbor, president Mia Grosjean said the not-for-profit would like to sponsor a forum for the community to discuss the future of Long Wharf, similar to a recent transportation forum held by the organization.

“I think your traffic calming meeting, bringing everyone together to have a discussion is so important for our community,” said Tait, noting the same vision made Marine Park one of the most used, and beloved, areas in the village, should be employed when thinking about the future of Long Wharf.

“It is time to think about this before piecemealing too much money into Long Wharf just to keep it like it is,” he said.

Committee member Jeff Peters asked the board to also ask the trustees why, if the village is going maintain Long Wharf, “it took so long to get the floating docks” on the west side of the wharf out of the water following the season.

Those docks were badly damaged during Hurricane Sandy at the end of October. On Tuesday, the village board awarded a contract to repair those docks to DJ Whelan Corporation of Sag Harbor at a cost of $74,000.

Harbor Master Bob Bori said last year he removed them at the end of the season. This year, said Bori, public works was given the task.

“We have less than a month before the village docking season starts and the village docks, according to the village harbor master, are in disrepair,” said Tait.

Bori noted transient docks can be used instead, particularly early in the season, however, Tait said that should be another topic that remains on the committee’s agenda for the time being.

Sag Harbor Village Hatches Long Term Plan for Long Wharf

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It’s been about two years since Suffolk County officials first approached Sag Harbor Village with news that a mounting county budget deficit had led them to consider giving the village Long Wharf, technically a county road, and all costs associated with its long-term maintenance.

Since that time, the county legislature waffled on the transfer, then appeared willing to go through with the offer. But then a change in command came in 2011 with the election of Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, further stalling an official transfer of Long Wharf to Sag Harbor as the county reorganized itself under new leadership.

However, last month, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman — a longtime supporter of the transfer of Long Wharf to Sag Harbor Village — said he expects the county to formally sign off on the deal some time before December.

If the deal goes through, the village will have in its ownership one of the most iconic properties in Sag Harbor, a wharf that already provides a source of revenue for the village, but also comes with a lot of expenses.

During Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, Mayor Brian Gilbride said he has contacted village treasurer Eileen Touhy and asked her to advise the board about creating a capital reserve fund to cover the long-term costs of maintaining Long Wharf.

According to a 2010 assessment of Long Wharf, completed by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, at that point a total of $621,000 in repairs were necessary to keep the wharf in good condition.

Mayor Gilbride estimated Long Wharf incurs an estimated $100,000 in maintenance needs each year, meaning as of 2012 about $800,000 in repairs and maintenance could be needed.

While the village does have an estimated $2 million in its reserve fund, Mayor Gilbride said that money should be reserved for critical projects like the remediation of the Havens Beach stormwater runoff drainage ditch and for emergency expenditures.

Taking a cue from an idea presented by the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee last year, Mayor Gilbride said he would like to see all revenues from renting Long Wharf — this season an estimated $85,000 — funneled into that account.

Gilbride said he hopes to have a reserve account for the wharf in place sometime in the next two weeks.

Trustee Seat Up For Grabs

On Tuesday night, with Sag Harbor Trustee Robby Stein still hospitalized after a bicycle accident Sunday and with the recent resignation of trustee Tim Culver, Mayor Gilbride was joined on the dais by just two members of the village board — trustees Kevin Duchemin and Ed Gregory.

Sag Harbor resident Nada Barry wondered when the board would look to appoint someone to the board to replace Culver, whose term was set to expire in nine months.

Mayor Gilbride said at this point he had no intentions of making an appointment, later adding if it is the will of the board he would prefer to see the public elect a new trustee next summer rather than appoint someone.

Harbor Committee Talks Ferry

In other news, the Sag Harbor Village Harbor Committee met on Monday evening and at the close of its session, members talked about the possibility of the Hampton Jitney proposing a long-term passenger ferry service out of Sag Harbor.

This summer, the Hampton Jitney launched a passenger ferry, the Peconic Bay Water Jitney, which runs service between Greenport and Sag Harbor villages.

Ferry service — passenger or vehicular — is illegal under the Sag Harbor Village code, but early this summer the village board agreed to allow the Hampton Jitney to operate the service on a temporary basis for one summer season to study the impact it could have on the village.

The service started out slow, but picked up in terms of passengers as the summer season progressed, prompting the Hampton Jitney to expand the service through the month of September.

The village’s conditional approval of the ferry service sunsets at the end of October.

Whether or not the Hampton Jitney will pursue an application for a long-term passenger ferry service out of Sag Harbor Village remains uncertain. According to Hampton Jitney vice president Andrew Lynch, the company has yet to make a decision on that front.

However, members of the Harbor Committee are already attempting to understand the legal implications of such a proposal.

According to Sag Harbor Village attorney Denise Schoen, if the village board wanted to consider allowing a long-term service it would need to adopt a new local law.

Suffolk County is the permitting agent for all ferry service in terms of its license to operate and rates and has already given the Peconic Bay Water Jitney a five-year license. However, the ferry cannot operate out of Sag Harbor without village approval once its conditional approval ends this fall.

“My question is, once we give them a permit to dock on our dock do we have any control on where they go,” asked Harbor Committee Chairman Bruce Tait on Monday night.

Tait said his concern was the service could balloon from a small ferry service between the North and South Forks to a multi-pronged ferry service offering other destinations like Montauk or Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut.

Schoen said she did not believe the village could mandate how the Hampton Jitney decides to run its passenger ferry business, but that village attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. was already researching the village’s options should it want to continue to allow the service, but with some restriction.

Tait also wondered if a year-to-year license agreement might protect the village.

Schoen said as property owners of Long Wharf a license agreement may give the village board leeway in deciding not to renew the license if the service grows beyond what the village deems appropriate for Sag Harbor.

“The general consensus from the public and from our internal ferry committee is the negative impact of the ferry has been very little,” noted Tait.

“One of the caveats to that,” added Sag Harbor Village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, “is that is based on where the ferry is right now.”

“And we don’t know what the future is,” agreed Tait.

Schneiderman: Village Should Budget for Long Wharf

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Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman said this week he planned to reach out to Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride and suggest the mayor incorporate monies to care for Long Wharf into his 2012-2013 spending plan.

The suggestion comes mere weeks after the latest meeting between Suffolk County and Sag Harbor Village officials over the fate of Long Wharf. For over a year and a half village and county officials have bandied back-and-forth over the ownership of Long Wharf. A 10-year lease between the village and the county expired over a year ago. Since then, while the village has continued to maintain Long Wharf on a daily basis, long term repairs were stalled by the county, which technically owns the facility as a county road.

However, with a new Suffolk County Executive – Steve Bellone – and a county budget facing a potential $200,000 deficit, Schneiderman said he believes he now has the votes to move forward with the sale of Long Wharf to the Village of Sag Harbor. This would mean the village would assume responsibility for budgeting for long term repairs of the wharf.

According to Schneiderman, Suffolk County traditionally counted on setting aside $100,000 annually to pay for long term repairs to Long Wharf.

Now, it appears, that responsibility could lie with the Village of Sag Harbor, which has just begun its budget talks for the 2012-2013 fiscal year.

On Monday, Schneiderman said he has taken the first step by re-filing a bill that transfers ownership of Windmill Beach and the sliver of land hosting the Windmill itself into village hands. That bill could be decided on as early as March 13, he said. After that, Schneiderman said he or Suffolk County Executive Bellone will introduce a bill to transfer ownership of Long Wharf to the village.

“I am hoping we can wrap this whole thing up by June,” he said. “I would advise the mayor to plan for this in his budget.”

While Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride had yet to hear formally from Schneiderman by Monday afternoon, he said he was willing to take on the burden of Long Wharf and will discuss the matter briefly at Friday’s budget meeting at 4 p.m. in the Municipal Building.

Long Wharf Deal Likely

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Suffolk County officials have spent the last year and a half changing their minds and debating the benefits and drawbacks of giving a county road, also known as Long Wharf, to the Village of Sag Harbor. But for Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, it is finally time for the county to “fish or cut bait.”

After an hour-long meeting in the Municipal Building on Tuesday, February 14, it appeared as if at the very least Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman was ready to turn over Long Wharf to the village. He is concerned that if the county continues to keep a stake in the facility it will fail to maintain it in a timely fashion and that he may have a legislature not inclined to spend money on an asset that doesn’t directly produce county revenue.

Coupled with those concerns was Mayor Gilbride’s worry that the village needs to adequately plan to fund long-term capital project costs of Long Wharf if it is meant to take the facility over. With the first budget talks slated for this Friday, February 17 at 4 p.m. at the beginning of the Long Wharf Committee meeting, Mayor Gilbride warned the group the village did not want to wait much longer before a final decision was made and he did not want to see the future of Long Wharf hang in the balance of a county committee, with the village still unsure of what it’s financial obligations would be in the long term.

On Tuesday, Schneiderman said he has re-introduced legislation that would give the adjacent Windmill Beach and the property that holds the windmill next to Long Wharf to the village free of charge. That bill will go into committee in March and the legislature could vote on the law by the close of the month, according to Schneiderman’s aide Catherine Stark.

However, Schneiderman acknowledged, the more pressing issue is Long Wharf, and according to Mayor Gilbride while the village is maintaining it and carrying insurance on the facility, it does not have a lease with the county to do just that.

“We have started our budget process,” said Mayor Gilbride. “Our first meeting is Friday and my plan is going on over a year without a lease that if it looks like we are gaining ground here I can hold. But at the end of this budget process we need to either have a deal with the county to renew our 10-year lease, the county needs to have given us the Long Wharf or we are giving the county Long Wharf and you can start maintaining it on a daily basis.”

Mayor Gilbride said without the assurance that a final decision was going to be made, he would turn Long Wharf, and all the daily maintenance that comes with it, over to the county around June 1.

“Obviously, we wouldn’t be ready for that,” said Schneiderman.

“Then we need to start to get somewhere and not drag this out,” said Mayor Gilbride.

Mayor Gilbride said the village has completed repairs at the wharf, dealt with the tragic death of a New Jersey man who fell off the wharf, and has a department of public works constantly maintaining an asset it no longer holds a lease for.

At the beginning of the session, Schneiderman said his goal was to see the county maintain Long Wharf as it serves as a vital part of the economic development of Sag Harbor. He wondered if the village would be willing to share any revenues the wharf generates that go beyond what it needs to maintain the facility. With Response Marine’s Jim Ryan and Hampton Jitney President Geoffrey Lynch in the audience, Schneiderman said the county would also want to be in the loop in terms of what happens on Long Wharf when it comes to events or services, like the passenger ferry service recently suggested by Lynch and Ryan.

“This meeting is not for that,” Mayor Gilbride tersely warned.

Schneiderman argued it was relevant in that if the county was to divest itself of Long Wharf it would want to ensure that the village would still take on initiatives related to the facility that could boost sales tax revenue, which benefits the county coffers.

Mayor Gilbride countered that the Village of Sag Harbor already is doing its fair share in terms of generating sales tax revenues. He pointed to this past weekend’s Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce HarborFrost celebration, the annual HarborFest weekend and that the village in general is booming when it comes to business.

“I am the first mayor that will show up in the records agreeing to take Long Wharf back and even with it bringing in $100,000 a year, I will take that challenge on,” said Mayor Gilbride. “But make no mistake, if I get to the end of the budget process and can’t see a light at the end of the tunnel, that wharf will be yours to deal with.”

Liaison to the Suffolk County Legislature from Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone’s office, Ben Zwirn, said that he believes the county only looked to Long Wharf as a possible revenue source because it was in such dire financial need.

“And I don’t think they should be looking at this,” said Zwirn. “We invest in downtown areas everywhere. Here, you have a facility that is already built and is a vital part to the downtown of the Village of Sag Harbor, which is the most vibrant of all the villages on the East End.”

Zwirn, an East Hampton resident, noted that village is a ghost town in the off-season.

“It’s terrible,” he said. “This is really, when you talk about downtown revitalization, a model.”

Schneiderman did agree the revenues Sag Harbor brings to the table in sales tax revenue is certainly more than the $100,000 a year the county invests in Long Wharf, but questioned if other legislators would see an asset in the Hamptons as anything but a potential cash cow.

Mayor Gilbride said he would like nothing more than the county and village to reinstate the relationship it has long had — where the village has a 10-year lease for Long Wharf and the county takes care of capital projects. The most recent estimates, released over a year ago by the county’s Department of Public Works estimated that the wharf need over $300,000 in maintenance in the short term, and a total over 600,000 in the next five years.

As a contingency, Mayor Gilbride said if the county transfers ownership of Long Wharf to the village, he plans to put aside $100,000 a year for maintenance. On Tuesday he said it was possible some other plans, including one for a bulkhead on West Water Street or remediation at Havens Beach or upgrades to the Municipal Building could be put on hold if the village needs to start saving for Long Wharf.

Schneiderman again raised the issue of profit sharing, once the village has made the revenue it needs to cover its expenses, but Mayor Gilbride questioned how that formula could be worked out, especially if the wharf actually loses money in a year. Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait also noted the wharf needs railings and other improvements to make it pedestrian friendly, critical for any proposals involving the use of Long Wharf for a passenger ferry service to boost revenues.

“Right now, people are either walking in the street or on a very dangerous edge with a significant drop off,” he said.

While Schneiderman again started off stating the county would look at a 10-year lease, he then backtracked, concerned the county would not fund necessary improvements and suggested given the village’s willingness to take Long Wharf the county move in that direction.

“Knowing the county’s fiscal restraints, it might make more sense for you to take it now,” said Schneiderman.

Zwirn said he would also reach out to new County Executive Steve Bellone for a formal opinion.

With New County Executive, Long Wharf Debate Continues

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It has been over year and a half since former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy first requested that the Village of Sag Harbor take ownership of Long Wharf. But since that time, little has actually happened toward that goal aside from lengthy debates over the roles the village and county should play in maintaining the wharf.

For Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, the November election of Steve Bellone as the new Suffolk County Executive opens a new round of discussions about the fate of Long Wharf. These are discussions he would like to see resolved sooner rather than later so the village can fiscally prepare if it is to take on an estimated $100,000 in additional annual maintenance costs to sustain the wharf.

“The best fix for the village would be for the county to offer another 10-year lease to the village,” said Mayor Gilbride on Monday. “But they have to at least give me some direction after all this time.”

The village’s lease of Long Wharf with Suffolk County expired last year. While the village continues to insure Long Wharf and take care of its daily maintenance, as it has through the course of its lease, technically it has no rights to Long Wharf.

Over a year ago, county officials offered to sell Long Wharf and the adjacent Windmill Beach to the Village of Sag Harbor for one dollar. The county would not continue to pay for long-term maintenance under the deal, including $340,000 in repairs the county’s department of public works has estimated would be needed in the next five years.

However, the county legislature last summer failed to pass a bill giving ownership of Long Wharf and Windmill Beach to the village and later, in the fall, passed a resolution taking the decision completely out of their hands.

South Fork Legislator Jay Schneiderman supported the sale to Sag Harbor in the original vote. But in October, the legislature passed a resolution giving Commissioner of the Public Works Gil Anderson the right to sell or give Long Wharf, along with a number of other county roads currently maintained by smaller municipalities, to the towns or villages where the roads are located.

Anderson is now able to pass the ownership on without approval from the Suffolk County Legislature, but is not required to do so. Since then, the village has been waiting for a conclusion.

According to Deputy County Executive Jon Schneider, in order to make a decision that is in the best interest of the county and the village, Bellone has asked Schneiderman to reconvene an advisory committee created by the county to discuss the future of Long Wharf.

“It is a very important asset and we need to make sure we are working together with the community on the future of Long Wharf while also understanding the very real fiscal challenges Suffolk County is facing,” said Schneider on Monday.

“In a broad sense, we are facing a deficit in the county that we inherited that could be as large as nine figures,” he continued. “If there is an ability to take some things off the books and allow for stronger local control, that is something we have to look at. That being said, this is an important asset, it means a lot to the community and has a lot of potential. So we don’t want to do anything rash.”

According to Schneider, Bellone hopes to have the committee reconvened some time in the next month.

“I think we have a county executive in Bellone who is really committed to downtown revitalization and working with towns and villages as a former town supervisor,” said Schneiderman on Monday. “So we have hit a pretty big reset button.”

Schneiderman said he looks forward to the county and village working together on what the future holds for Long Wharf. But Schneiderman added he would like to see the village open to concepts like a pilot program for a 20-person water taxi — an initiative he said could increase revenues on the wharf and also draw more visitors to downtown Sag Harbor.

If the county does agree to another 10 year lease, Schneiderman said he would like to see some revenue funneled to the county, which pays an average of $100,000 in debt service on large capital projects to maintain Long Wharf. Schneiderman added he would like to see the Village of Sag Harbor use the revenue from Long Wharf to pay the maintenance costs in full, but that any additional revenue could be shared between the county and the village.

However, Mayor Gilbride said the village brings in very little revenue over what is needed to provide daily maintenance of Long Wharf.

“We are insuring it, we are maintaining it, we plowed it this past weekend and sanded it,” said Mayor Gilbride. “I want to have a good working relationship with the County Executive and I think it would be a good thing for them to have a presence in Sag Harbor. We send a lot of sales tax revenue to the county that we don’t get back, so I know the village is contributing quite a bit to the county during the summer when things are rocking and rolling.”

Mayor Gilbride said if they county really wants to benefit from revenues from Long Wharf, they can have it, but then they have to police it, maintain it and handle dockage. Otherwise, said Mayor Gilbride, he is open to another lease with the county and even taking ownership of Long Wharf, despite the added fiscal burden the village would have to shoulder.

“It is an important part of Sag Harbor,” said Mayor Gilbride. “That is why I am the first mayor who has said we will take it.”

Police Identify Man Who Drowned Off Long Wharf

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A New Jersey man visiting a family member’s Sag Harbor summer home with his fiancée last weekend, tumbled off the end of Long Wharf Saturday night and drowned.

Suffolk County Homicide Detectives identified the man as Christopher Valentine, 56, of Parsippany, N.J. There was no evidence of criminality, a spokesperson for the county homicide department said, and it appears as if Valentine, who was at the end of the wharf with his fiancée, fell into the water accidentally. The spokesperson said Valentine had been drinking and was likely intoxicated at the time.

Sag Harbor Village Police confirmed Valentine’s death on Monday morning, and due to the nature of the incident, referred the case to Suffolk County Homicide. The local department regularly refers such cases to the county for investigation.

Valentine and his fiancée — whom police are not identifying —  had walked together to the end of the wharf shortly before 9 p.m. and sat for a while on the bench in the northwest corner of the wharf, police reported. A short time later he fell into the water, estimated to be about 60 degrees, but it is unclear how that occurred. It is also unclear how long Valentine was in the water.

According to Sag Harbor Police Detective Paul Fabiano, a passing motorist notified police about the incident. Sources also indicate the woman was apparently injured in a fall on the wharf, although she never wound up in the water.

The man was pulled from the water by Sag Harbor Police with the aid of the Sag Harbor Harbor Master, and taken by the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps — who performed CPR in an attempt to revive him — to Southampton Hospital for medical treatment. He was pronounced dead at 10:50 p.m.

The case is still under investigation with the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s office and the homicide squad. Police are asking anyone who may have witnessed the incident to contact Detective Jeffrey Proctor of the Sag Harbor Police Department, 725-0623. All calls will remain confidential.

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Committee Explores Future of Long Wharf

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The future ownership of Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, which for over a year now has been debated by Suffolk County and Sag Harbor Village officials, will not likely be decided until after a new Suffolk County Executive is sworn into office.

Despite that, a group of county and village officials gathered in Sag Harbor’s Municipal Building on Tuesday afternoon in a brainstorming session on how to increase revenues on Long Wharf to make it self sustaining. The session also continued the debate over whether Suffolk County should retain ownership of Long Wharf, and continue to fund capital improvements, or whether the Village of Sag Harbor, which maintains Long Wharf’s surface and collects fees from dockage, should be given the roadway and pay for its long-term upkeep.

Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, the chairman of this Long Wharf Advisory Committee, explained this debate actually began when current Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy discovered the county owns Long Wharf, not Sag Harbor.

Schneiderman said that similar to a number of system roads in Suffolk County, the county took ownership of Long Wharf from Sag Harbor Village as it was eligible for state and federal funding for capital improvements. He estimated the capital improvements needed at Long Wharf cost Suffolk County, which is looking down the barrel of an almost $200 million hole in its 2012 budget, about $100,000 a year to fund.

Originally, the county executive hoped to just give Long Wharf to the village, but the legislature viewed the wharf as a county asset and voted against that proposal.

Much will depend on who will lead the county next year — Democrat Steve Bellone and Republican Angie Carpenter are vying for the position in this year’s November 8 election — said Schneiderman. He added a new law allows the superintendent of the county’s Department of Public Works to give Long Wharf to Sag Harbor Village without the legislature’s consent, if the village will take it.

“I am not sure that is the best solution,” said Schneiderman, adding he would like to see the county and village partner in looking for ways to increase revenues on Long Wharf and share those revenues, so ideally both the village and the county can break even on Long Wharf’s maintenance.

From the village’s perspective, Mayor Brian Gilbride said he would like to see the county and village maintain its previous agreement, where the village maintains the wharf’s basic upkeep and the county takes on the capital projects.

Gilbride said the village spends about $50,000 a year on maintenance, and collects between $57,000 and $107,000 in dockage from the wharf. If the village is to take over ownership, Gilbride said he has explored setting up a reserve fund to cover capital costs, although with a small budget and a two-percent tax cap finances are certainly a concern.

The money the village spends to maintain Long Wharf, added Gilbride, does not include the cost of policing the wharf or for the Harbormaster’s services.

“The one thing I want to make clear is I don’t think a lot of money is left to be split in revenue sharing with the county,” said Gilbride.

Schneiderman countered the county is facing a looming financial crisis as well, and doesn’t get any revenues out of Long Wharf.

Former Deputy County Executive Ben Zwirn, who now works for Bellone, disagreed.

Zwirn argued the county spends millions in downtown revitalization, and the Long Wharf is a part of Sag Harbor that provides critical parking and draws people to the village, increasing the amount of sales tax revenue the county collects from Sag Harbor businesses.

“My recommendation would be the county should control and maintain it as it is a boon to economic development,” he said.

Schneiderman said he would still like to explore increasing revenue, by allowing more boats, increasing dock fees or bringing in a winter attraction like an ice rink. A passenger ferry was another idea, he said.

Gilbride countered a passenger ferry is against village code.

“There is a lot lacking in upland support for that, particularly parking,” agreed Harbor Committee chairman Bruce Tait. He added a lot of the enhancements that would make Long Wharf more profitable, including making it more pedestrian friendly, would also cost money to develop.

Schneiderman suggested a Friends of the Long Wharf Committee could be set up to fundraise as a not-for-profit entity, similar to those that support the Big Duck in Flanders or the Montauk Lighthouse.

The committee agreed to reconvene after November 8, when the new county executive is elected to office.

Village Considers Ban on Bamboo

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Sag Harbor resident Pat Field has tried everything to destroy bamboo that spread from her neighbor’s Madison Street property across her driveway and 15-feet into her property.

“It’s impossible to kill,” she said at a Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting on Tuesday night. “I’ve tried.”

Field has proposed that the village consider adopting a law similar to one proposed in Smithtown banning invasive species of bamboo that, when planted and not properly controlled, can spread quickly and destroy neighboring properties. Under Field’s proposal, homeowners who plant bamboo must keep it from spreading within 20-feet of neighboring properties, noting the plants can “destroy brick patios” and even grow through air conditioning units. She proposes that violators would be charged with having to remove the plants from neighbors’ properties if it spreads and should be fined $500 a month if they don’t comply with the law.

“If someone wants it so badly, they must put a steel barrier at least three-feet down to contain the plantings on their property,” states Field in her proposal to the board.

Both Mayor Brian Gilbride and Trustee Robby Stein appeared supportive of the village at least exploring legislation.

“Nothing will happen overnight, but you have brought us something we will look at and send to the other boards,” said Gilbride.

Village Needs County Okay For Binocular Viewer on Wharf

The Long Island Chapter of the United States Lighthouse Society has petitioned the Village of Sag Harbor to allow a binocular viewer on Long Wharf for residents to view the historic Cedar Island Lighthouse.

The society is working towards the lighthouse’s restoration and is hoping the viewer will bring attention, and support to their cause.

On Tuesday night, Gilbride told Michael Leahy, the Chairman of the Cedar Island Restoration Committee, that he supported the idea, but due to ongoing debates between the county and the village over the ownership of Long Wharf, he was hesitant to allow the viewer to be installed.

However, Gilbride agreed to allow the viewer to be placed on the wharf as long as Leahy could secure a letter from the county supporting the concept.

Resident Wants Trees Removed

A Hempstead Street resident approached both the village Harbor Committee and Trustees this week asking that trees she says were planted on village property over 30 years ago, blocking her water view, be removed.

Rebecca Curtis contends that former village mayor Bill Young had trees planted in the portion of village land next to the Havens Beach drainage ditch that took away a water view from the rear of her house. Curtis said she was promised they would be removed, but 32 years later they remain.

She added that she would like the village to explore restoring the wetlands around the drainage ditch instead of its current plan. The village trustees have proposed to address bacteria in the ditch through a combination of bio-filtration in the creation of a restored wetland in the ditch itself, as well as the use of mechanical filtration units at the beginning of the ditch at Hempstead Street and at its end where it discharges into Sag Harbor Bay.

“I moved here just to have a view of that water and I no longer have that due to the village’s actions,” said Curtis on Tuesday night.

Gilbride said he was reluctant to “chop down” trees on village property. Trustee Tim Culver added that the village’s plans for Havens Beach were developed out of years of study by village environmental planning consultant Rich Warren, as well as the Cornell Cooperative Extension in Riverhead.

After the meeting, Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley questioned whether or not the trees Young had planted on village property were the trees now blocking Curtis’ view. He furnished two maps, one from 1997 that showed two perfect lines of trees planted next to the ditch at Havens Beach. Yardley said it is those trees, which were cut down two years ago, that he believes were planted by the village. A cluster of trees blocking Curtis’ view, visible on a 2009 map of the area, Yardley said he believes grew naturally.

In other village news, the board formally adopted a new law regulating restaurants as accessory businesses to motels in the resort-motel district of the village.

Under the law, the restaurants cannot occupy more than 20-percent of the gross floor area of an entire restaurant, can only be open when the motel is open, cannot offer take-out to non-motel guests and cannot contain a separate bar or nightclub.

Lastly, the board approved the Sag Harbor American Music Festival’s request to have outdoor musicians perform on two spots on Main Street and have an outdoor performance at Marine Park to kick off their inaugural festival on Friday, September 30 and Saturday, October 1.

In addition to a Friday night performance at Bay Street theatre, 11 local businesses will host musical events featuring American music styles like blues and jazz, over the course of the weekend.


County Waffling on Long Wharf Sale

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By Kathryn G. Menu


Since last fall, the fate of the iconic Long Wharf in Sag Harbor, a county road operated by the Village of Sag Harbor through a lease that expired this past winter, has been in constant state of flux.

On Tuesday, with its impending sale to the Village of Sag Harbor tabled by the Suffolk County Legislature, it appears the county still hasn’t made up its mind about what to do with the wharf, much to the frustration of Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.

“You have to make up your mind,” said Gilbride on Wednesday morning. “Since this past fall, this has gone from the county wanting us to take the wharf for a dollar and give us $600,000 for long term maintenance, to the county giving it to us, but only with half that money, to the county saying we have to take the wharf and fix it ourselves. And now that County Executive Steve Levy is out of the running for another term, the county is saying, ‘Maybe we will keep it.’”

After much back and forth between Levy’s office, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman and Gilbride, in February the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees agreed to purchase Long Wharf from Suffolk County and take on the long-term maintenance costs associated with the facility. The village already pays for annual maintenance like re-striping parking spaces, winterization of the floating docks and general upkeep.

According to Gilbride, the village collects revenue from dockage at the wharf, which last year topped $95,000, but often the village brings in far less and certainly not enough to offset the cost of long term maintenance of Long Wharf which over the next decade could cost the village $621,000, according to a report compiled by the Suffolk County Department of Public Works.

Planning to create a dedicated reserve account to cover those costs, Gilbride said he was frustrated to learn the county legislature has now stalled on the Levy-sponsored bill to sell the wharf to the village, and Schneiderman admits he too was surprised by the outcome.

“The village seemed ready, but reluctant to take it and my position was I was ready, but reluctant to give it away,” said Schneiderman on Wednesday morning. “I would have preferred the county continue to maintain it with a village lease, but I fear if that happened it would not be maintained properly.”

Schneiderman said he did not vote to table the measure.

With the county in what Schneiderman called “very difficult financial times,” he said he was unsure the county would be able to afford the estimated $100,000 it spends annually on Long Wharf’s upkeep. With the wharf likely in need of being re-bulkheaded at some point — a costly project, said Schneiderman — the county legislator said he tried to explain to his colleagues that the wharf would have maintenance costs that exceed its current revenue.

On Tuesday, in session, Schneiderman said the discussion was not focused as much on giving the wharf away, but more a questioning of why the county would give away an asset it could make money from, through, for example, charging for parking on Long Wharf.

“I explained that could severely hurt local business, and in particular Bay Street Theatre,” said Schneiderman. “It could have an impact on the vitality of the downtown area, and typically the county is about revitalizing downtown areas.”

“To me it makes sense to have the village manage and own it and determine its future,” he said, adding it is his hope that at the June 7 meeting of the legislature they will vote to do just that.

Gilbride questioned whether the county would legally be able to have paid parking on Long Wharf should they decide to keep it for themselves, but also wondered how would it be enforced.

“And if you put county, paid parking down there, Bay Street Theatre might as well close its doors now,” said the mayor. “All we are doing on our end is trying to protect our theatre and our business district.”

 

Septic Law Goes Back to the Drawing Board

A proposed law aimed at protecting the health of the Peconic Estuary through regulation in the Village of Sag Harbor that would require homeowners have their septic or wastewater treatment systems checked once every three years will go back to the drawing board, according to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride.

The draft law would have required residents to have any in-ground cesspool, septic tank or drain field inspected once every three years, starting four years after the law is adopted by the board.

An impetus for creating the draft law, said trustee Robby Stein, is that the county is looking specifically at Sag Harbor and three other waterfront communities that have sewage treatment plants to see if the plants should be expanded in an effort to reduce the number of in-ground septic systems on the waterfront.

“I think it is a little too much for us,” said Gilbride of the draft law. “I think we need to have some more discussion about this and then re-introduce a new law.”

Former mayor Pierce Hance said he would like to see a needs assessment study performed on the waterfront to see if nitrogen loading is in fact happening because of in-ground septic systems before the village moves forward.


Save Sag Harbor Hopes for Recycling Bins

Local not-for-profit Save Sag Harbor would like to install three recycling bins, each with a container for glass, paper and general trash, on Main Street, Sag Harbor this summer.

According to Save Sag Harbor President Mia Grosjean, the organization would pay for the cost of the three containers as well as regular pick-up service, which, after the village board meeting on Tuesday night, she said may be donated for one year by a provider the group has a tentative agreement with.

“Someone has to take care of it,” said Gilbride. “That was my issue the last time this came up.”

He added as long as the village could be assured someone would regularly clean the bins and pick up the recycling and trash, he was fine with the concept.


Thiele Asks for License Refund for Charter Boat Owners

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. has asked the New York State Commissioner of Environmental Conservation Joseph Martens to refund the $400 fee many charter and party boat operators have already paid for a 2011 Saltwater Fishing license.

The State Legislature has repealed the license, however, according to Thiele, a number of captains had already paid the fee for 2011 before the repeal. The State has already authorized refunds for individual lifetime license holders.

“Charter boats in New York already pay the State of New York a $250 fee for a charter boat license, in addition to the repealed $400 saltwater fishing license,” said Thiele in a press release issued late last week. “The $400 fee should be returned. The $250 is already a higher cost of doing business for charter boats than most neighboring states.”


Tiffany Scarlato

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Tiffany Scarlato

By Kathryn G. Menu

The lifelong Sag Harbor resident and former member of the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees talks about offering herself up as one of the brave souls participating in The Frosty Plunge at Windmill Beach during this weekend’s HarborFrost, provided she can raise $1,000 to support the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

So why support the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps this way? Why not join as a volunteer?
I can’t join. I am too chicken. My good friend Denise Schoen, who is a member of the corps, and I once traveled to France and England together. When we were in France someone was hit by a car right in front of us and Denise, of course, ran towards the guy lying in the road and I ran away from him. She had been asking me for years to join, and I told her over and over again, ‘I can’t, I can’t.’ And she would say, ‘Yes, you can.’ After that day, she agreed, ‘I can’t.’

A number of organizations and volunteer groups have felt the affects of the downturn in the economy in recent years. In terms of the ambulance corps, how has the recession impacted their bottom line?
I know donations through fundraising for the ambulance corps is down 25 percent this year and they need a new ambulance, which is one of the reasons I decided to do this. A lot of people don’t realize much of what funds the ambulance corps is private donations.

Leading up to the event, are you preparing for the plunge? Is there training involved?
No. I am going to put my bathing suit on and hope for the best. I have never done anything like this before. I usually don’t put a toenail in the water until July. I feel like it is better if I don’t spend too much time thinking about it, so I have decided not to worry until I wake up on Saturday morning and my husband turns to me and says, ‘Are you really going to do this?’ My son honestly thinks I am nuts. I will have some support though. My 14-year-old niece, Daja Scarlato, is going to do it with me.

So bikini or wetsuit?
I think I am going with a one-piece bathing suit. I actually already have it picked out and it is ready to go. I did make some grand statements at The American Hotel this weekend that hopefully no one picked up on. For example, that if I raise $5,000 I will wear a bikini.

You launched this campaign on Facebook, and by spreading the word to friends in the community. Why do you think people are so apt to support you in this endeavor? Is it for the ambulance corps or just to see you freeze your butt off?
I think it is probably a bit of both. I am hoping more people do it to support the ambulance corps, but I think there is some secret part of people who are doing it because they would like to see me freeze my butt off.

How much, approximately, have you raised so far?
Honestly, I don’t have a clue. I am not sure if some people are sending checks directly to the ambulance, but I do have a lot of verbal commitments and a lot of people who said they will bring cash by the office before the plunge or even money to the event. I do know that Sag Harbor Chamber of Commerce President Robert Evjen said he has collected $500.

What is your game plan for the day of HarborFrost? How will you mentally prepare and will alcohol be involved?
I am going to prepare myself with lunch and a couple of Guinness at The Corner Bar.

And afterwards?
I am headed back to The Corner for more Guinness. Depending on how cold I am, it might be more than a couple.

This is the first year for HarborFrost, although organizers hope it will become an annual Sag Harbor tradition, alongside HarborFest. Do you see your role this year as being one that could become a tradition as well?
We will see how much money we make for the ambulance corps and how I feel after this year’s plunge about doing it again next year. I will definitely participate in HarborFrost in some shape or form next year. I love that we have events like HarborFest and now HarborFrost — it’s one of the things that makes Sag Harbor special. I am happy the plunge has created some excitement about the event, because I think until recently that was kind of lagging a little bit.

How important is having events like HarborFrost to Sag Harbor, from an economic perspective, but also as a community event?
I hope it has an economic impact. I know a lot of restaurants are participating with a $20.11 prix fixe menu and I do believe the fireworks will draw people into the village — that and hopefully that a bunch of lunatics are jumping in the water at the village beach.
It’s a difficult time and a difficult time of year, so I think this is also just about bringing people together. I feel like I can barely watch the news these days, there is so much going on, it sometimes feels like the world is falling apart. It will be nice to have a community get-together with so much turmoil in the world. I think people take comfort in that, and will come to HarborFrost for that reason alone. At least I hope they do. I don’t want to freeze my butt off for no reason.

Sag Harbor Village seems to be awash in volunteers, from those who serve the ambulance corps to the fire department and local not for profits. As a lifelong resident, why do you think the village is seemingly immune to the kind of apathy we see elsewhere?
I think it is because we have good people here. It is really that simple. I think people want to be a part of Sag Harbor, keep it beautiful, vibrant. The people who live here love Sag Harbor, and we don’t have the kind of issues going on here that you see elsewhere that can sidetrack people from that. Here, people drive down Main Street and they ask themselves, how can I be a part of this community. It is really as simple as that.

HarborFrost will be held on Saturday, February 5 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. with The Frosty Plunge taking place off the village beach next to Long Wharf at 3:30 p.m. Hot soup will be provided by Phao Thai Kitchen, and hot showers at the Sag Harbor Gym.