Tag Archive | "Michael Bromberg"

Three Mayoral Candidates See Different Village Priorities

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The three candidates vying to lead Sag Harbor as its mayor for the next two years expressed wide-ranging, sometimes divergent priorities this week on where they believe village government needs to focus its energy in what is emerging as one of the most contentious campaigns the village has seen in years.

On Monday, at an interview at The Express office, incumbent trustee and deputy mayor Brian Gilbride, zoning board of appeals chairman Michael Bromberg and attorney and economist Jim Henry began debating issues ranging from the village’s fiscal health to charging for parking on Main Street as all three begin to heavily campaign for the June 16 mayoral election.

On Sunday, the debate will continue at 3 p.m. at the Sag Harbor Presbyterian (Old Whalers’) Church in a debate sponsored by the Coalition of Neighborhoods for the Preservation of Sag Harbor (CONPOSH).

Michael Bromberg

Bromberg, an attorney, member of the zoning board of appeals since 2001 and that board’s chairman since 2005, is also a former member of the Sag Harbor School Board and paramedic for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. He said that affordable housing remains a top priority for him.

“I think it is a necessity and we have to work harder to get that accomplished,” he said.

While the new village code has inclusionary zoning standards, requiring developers to include affordable housing in projects or pay into the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust, Bromberg wondered why the village would mandate 20 percent affordable housing rather than the 10 percent New York State has legislated in the Long Island Workforce Housing Act and questioned whether that could be a disincentive for developers.

Bromberg called for the creation of a mix of affordable housing options for village residents, from affordable homes for sale to affordable rental units, and questioned what work the village has done toward the affordable housing issue.

“Sag Harbor traditionally has been a blue collar, un-Hampton and I don’t want to see us lose that,” he said.

Providing more village parking is another priority for Bromberg. One concept he floated was the use of air rights over the municipal lot behind Main Street or the parking lot adjacent to Sag Harbor’s American Legion on Bay Street — for which the village would have to negotiate the rights — in order to construct parking and affordable housing. Both sites, said Bromberg, would enable the housing to connect easily to the village sewer system. Addressing storm water runoff concerns at Havens Beach is another issue Bromberg would take on if elected mayor.

For Gilbride, who has served on the board of trustees for 15 years and is a member of the village fire department and former head of sanitation for the Town of Southampton, the concern is looking at the budget when weighing what projects the village should tackle in coming years.

Brian Gilbride

“As far as going into the future, the [zoning] code we just adopted, to me, is a work in progress,” said Gilbride who added that the village intends to fine tune the wetlands section of the code. “I am sure there are some elements that may sue us over the code and we are prepared for that. The most important part is getting that code out there now and seeing where the strengths and weaknesses are.”

“I would like to see something done with a greenings code for the historic district to start to make provisions to regulate what can be done,” said Gilbride, who wants opportunities for people who would like to install solar panels on their residences.

“Pretty much in the village, it comes down to what we can afford and we fight pretty hard over little bits of money in the budget process,” he said, adding a majority of the village’s spending covers basic items like employee and police contracts, emergency services, sewage and public works.

Henry, who lost a bid for Southampton Town Supervisor in 2007, is an attorney, economist and founder of the Sag Harbor Group, a consulting firm for technology-based businesses. He was one of the founding members of the group Save Sag Harbor.

James Henry

“I really want us to work on a vision for where this community wants to end up – how we make it a sustainable Sag Harbor,” said Henry who added that he sees a number of issues not yet budgeted for that the village will need to address in coming years, including remediation of Havens Beach.

“You can argue whether there is pollution there today or next week, but the fact is there is a $500,000 project that needs to be addressed,” said Henry, referring to a plan to create a filtration system at the beach to address storm water runoff concerns.

He also suggested Long Wharf is under-utilized in its current form as a parking lot and would like to see it developed into a more “user-friendly” space for the community.

As for parking, Henry said he would not seek to build more lots, but rather charge for parking, using meters in the center of the village with free parking on the perimeter of the downtown area. Henry said this could provide additional revenue for the village, which could be used to provide more services for area businesses.

Charging that the village has not anticipated a drop in property tax revenues, Henry said the current budget will result in either a tax increase or a spending cut unless other sources of revenue are found. He questioned why Sag Harbor has not approached Southampton Town for more monies from the Community Preservation Fund (CPF) and said it should be more active in seeking funding through the federal government’s stimulus plan.

Financially, the mayor is the village’s chief fiscal officer. From a budget perspective, Gilbride said he believed the board was successful in keeping the budget tight in the face of a lagging economy, approaching department heads early on and asking them to hold the line on spending.

“In the village, we live the old fashioned way – we do what we can afford,” said Gilbride, who added that Southampton and East Hampton towns both have multi-million dollar deficits, with East Hampton considering employee layoffs and the selling of town owned land.

“Now I think we are in good shape,” said Gilbride. “We have actually been in good shape the last few years. Since [mayor] Greg [Ferraris] has been in office, taxes have actually dropped 10.2 percent. But I think we are at the bottom now. Quite honestly, for me, as we move forward if we want to do any of these projects the tax rate will have to increase.”

The village has also employed a grant writer to look for revenues to complete projects, added Gilbride who took issue with Henry’s criticism of the village’s budget.

“Jim mentions the budget — I never saw him at one budget meeting, I never saw him at one village meeting,” said Gilbride, later adding, “You have all these answers — it’s great, but where have you been.”

“I don’t think that is fair,” responded Henry, noting he was involved in Save Sag Harbor and ran for supervisor in Southampton. “I think I have a track record of having to work on all these issues from the outside.”

Henry suggested the village look at new ways to tackle current spending in a more affordable way and increase revenues.

“I think the village has a limited vision, pardon me for saying so, about what the village can do to make what I would say is the quality of life stuff a priority,” said Henry. “I am talking about making the parks more valuable, the walkablity issue, culture and recreation.”

What the village is spending in these areas, said Henry, is way out of proportion when examining budgets for the police and fire departments.

“It’s not a question of cutting those departments or transferring money,” cautioned Henry. “It’s a way of being more creative, going out and finding other revenue sources.”

Bromberg said he was unsure what he would cut or add to the budget, as he would want to talk with department heads and hear about their priorities first.

Looking at the current administration, Bromberg said the adopted zoning code represented what the current administration got right and wrong.

“I think most of it is workable. I think parts of it will need to be tweaked,” said Bromberg, who also called for a comprehensive plan for the whole of the village.

“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” he said.

Bromberg expanded on the idea of a comprehensive plan, noting it would cover more than just zoning, but would encompass schools, economic growth, demographics, ethnicity.

“I kind of disagree that we would all come together and move on,” said Bromberg, noting the village is currently comprised of different factions – an old Sag Harbor and a new Sag Harbor.

“What has to happen here is an amalgam,” said Bromberg. “We have people in this village that have enormous talents. I think they can contribute mightily to the village if they are asked. Brian asked where Jim has been. Well, sure, but Jim has some good ideas and maybe if someone had approached him earlier on we could put some of these ideas into effect.”


Seven Hats in Sag Harbor Village Races

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Three residents have officially filed to run for the position of mayor of Sag Harbor in this year’s election on June 16, with four residents seeking the two trustee seats that are up for grabs.

On Wednesday, Sag Harbor Village Clerk Sandra Schroeder confirmed that zoning board of appeals chairman Michael Bromberg, incumbent trustee and deputy mayor Brian Gilbride and local attorney Jim Henry have all filed petitions seeking mayoral office. Current mayor Greg Ferraris announced earlier this year that he would not seek a third term at the helm of the board.

Joining Ferraris in retirement from the village board is trustee and Southampton Town assessor Ed Deyermond. Incumbent trustee Ed Gregory will seek re-election with Gilbride as a ticket in an effort to keep his position on the board, running against three other confirmed trustee candidates for two seats. The remaining are attorney Tim Culver, real estate agent Jane Holden and child psychologist Robbie Stein.

The three mayoral candidates have all presented largely divergent preliminary platforms, two seeking change in village government with incumbent Gilbride pointing to the success and accomplishments of the current board as the basis for his decision to run.

Bromberg, a member of the zoning board of appeals since 2001 and that board’s chairman since 2005, is an attorney and law guardian for family court, having practiced his profession in both New York and California since 1969. A former member of the Sag Harbor School Board and paramedic for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Bromberg said earlier this month he decided to seek the mayor’s seat in an effort to solve some of the larger issues facing the village, namely affordable housing and parking. The rest of his platform would evolve, he said, after speaking with village residents about what they would like to see the board accomplish in coming years.

Gilbride has served on the board of trustees for the past 15 years, and has been deputy mayor of the village for the last five years. He began his service for the village as an employee in the highway department, working his way up to a position in maintenance, before serving as head of the department of sanitation for the Town of Southampton. Retired from Norsic sanitation services, Gilbride has also been a decades-long member of the Sag Harbor Fire Department, even serving as its chief.

Gilbride said his decision to run was natural once Ferraris announced his retirement, having served as deputy mayor for many years.

“I think I bring a lot of experience to the table and I work well with the board,” he said on Wednesday. “I am a team player and that is what I would do as mayor.”

Gilbride said his main priority in the next year would be to hold the line on what he says was already a tight budget.

“These are tough economic times for the region and for businesses,” he said. “So I am not looking to increase services and costs, but to hold the line, get through the tough times and move on from there.”

Henry also cited the troubled economy as an impetus for running for mayor, although he brought a different perspective than Gilbride when it comes to Sag Harbor’s spending plan.

“I think the village is at a critical point,” said Henry on Wednesday. “We have a severe financial crisis on our hands and I think it is time for someone with my management skills and business background to take a leadership role.”

Henry lost his bid for Southampton Town Supervisor in 2007 and has yet to hold office, but offers a background in business and economics, as founder of the Sag Harbor Group, a consulting firm for technology-based businesses. He is also an attorney, author and journalist and was one of the founding members of Save Sag Harbor.

Looking at the budget, Henry said while he did not want to take away from the police and fire departments in Sag Harbor, those line items represent a large portion of the village’s budget. On the other hand, said Henry, there are a number of recreation, culture and environmental initiatives he would like to see the village take on in coming years, including making government buildings in the village more sustainable.

“Reforming the code and investing time in the Bulova project has taken so much management time, that I think a lot of issues have been neglected,” said Henry. 

The Coalition of Neighbors for the Preservation of Sag Harbor (CONPOSH) will host a Meet the Candidates forum for the community, moderated by Sag Harbor Express editor and publisher Bryan Boyhan on Sunday, June 7. 

Bromberg Joins Chase for Mayor’s Office

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Two years ago the mayoral election in Sag Harbor was a one horse race, with Greg Ferraris securing his second term at the helm uncontested. Following the announcement that Ferraris would not seek a third term, this year’s race seemingly sprouts a new candidate each week.

And this week was no different.

On Monday, Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals Chairman Michael Bromberg announced his intentions to seek the office of mayor, joining current Trustee Brian Gilbride and attorney Jim Henry in the battle for the seat. Trustee Tiffany Scarlato originally announced she would seek the office, but bowed out in order to support fellow Sag Harbor Party candidate Gilbride.

For Bromberg the decision to run came from a desire to solve some of the village’s larger problems – namely parking and affordable housing – issues he attempted to champion through the luxury condo project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.

During the planning process for the now approved restoration and redevelopment of the historic landmark, Bromberg successfully negotiated two parking spaces per unit, despite that the village code only called for one. He also championed for on-site affordable housing – a battle he eventually stepped away from after recusing himself from a decision.

Both are issues he said he would like to take on from a legislative standpoint after what he said was a lack of leadership on both fronts.

“I have a lot more questions than I do answers right now,” said Bromberg on Monday. “I want an opportunity to talk to people and hear what they want before I commit to anything, but I know there are problems in the village with affordable housing and parking … I have seen a lack of leadership in terms of issues I think are important to the village.”

Bromberg noted the parking trust fund has not created more parking, and questioned why more was not being doing to line the coffers of the Sag Harbor Community Housing Trust, a housing trust fund conceptualized over a year ago to help provide workforce housing in the Sag Harbor School District.

 “These are some of the things I thought I would like to get a handle on and come up with some answers that we can all get behind as a community,” continued Bromberg.

Bromberg is no stranger to the need for workfroce housing, having grown up in a low-income housing project in Fort Greene, Brooklyn before moving to a middle-income housing project in the Bronx when he was about 10 years old.

He and his wife Margaret, a lifelong resident of Sag Harbor, have been married since 1969 and have three children, Isaac, Minna and Simon.

Bromberg has been a member of the zoning board of appeals since 2001, and has served as chairman since 2005. The attorney and law guardian for family court has practiced law in both New York and California since 1969. He has also served on the Sag Harbor School Board and with the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps as a paramedic.

In addition to the mayor’s seat, two trustee positions will also be on the ballot this June 16. Trustee Ed Deyermond has announced he will not seek another term, while trustee Ed Gregory will vie to keep this seat on the board of trustees. Prospective candidates interested in any of the positions have until May 12 to turn in petitions with 50 resident signatures




Village Sued By Denied Day Spa

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After the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied The Style Bar’s application for a parking variance on December 16, 2008, Peri and Ira Gurfein, owners of the business, decided to file an Article 78 lawsuit against the village over the ZBA’s decision. New York State Supreme Court proceedings on the case are scheduled to begin on Thursday, March 30 in Riverhead.

The Gurfeins’ variance request for six off-site parking spaces stems from an expansion the couple made to their business in 2000. At the time, a village moratorium was in place and the Gurfeins converted a portion of a second floor residential space into an accessory, commercial use of the ground floor beauty parlor business they had been operating.

However, the ZBA maintains this expansion was made without the required building permits and the Gurfeins’ certificate of occupancy doesn’t allow commercial use of the second floor space. In order to continue operating their business on the second floor, the Gurfeins require six additional parking spaces. Since on-site space at the Bay Street location is at a premium, the Gurfeins needed a variance for off-site parking.

The ZBA, however, voted against the Gurfeins’ request. The ZBA said there is already a parking shortage in the village business district and added that giving the Gurfeins a variance for six-off site spaces would worsen the situation and create an undesirable change to the neighborhood. The board added that by expanding the business without providing the necessary parking, the Gufeins significantly affected the village parking problems, since the ZBA claims the enlargement increased the business floor area by more than 100 percent. Finally, the board concluded the Gurfeins created the hardship themselves because they consciously bypassed the village approval process for their commercial expansion.

However, the Gurfeins’ lawyer, Robert Marcincuk, stated in lawsuit documents, the ZBA’s decision was “retaliatory and designed to punish the Petitioners for their business expansion/renovations without first obtaining a building permit or other necessary Village approvals.”

During an interview, Marcinuk said “We are saying [perhaps] we created the situation by expanding, but the self-created hardship alone isn’t determinative as to whether or not the zoning board of appeals should have denied granting the variance.”

Marcinuk claims the board was presented with several letters from owners of neighboring businesses, who said the Style Bar didn’t have an adverse impact on the neighborhood. He added that the expanded business has been in operation since 2000. Marcinuk said there isn’t a feasible alternative for the Gurfeins since it is impossible to create on-site parking for the business.

Marcinuk went on to state that a similar parking variance was granted to Bay Partners, LLC, for the Tutto Il Giorno Restaurant on Bay Street in February 2008. The restaurant sought to create outdoor seating during the summer, which required additional parking. The ZBA, however, found outdoor seating had been operated from the site since 1975, and thus wouldn’t be a substantial change to the neighborhood. Bay Partners was subsequently granted the variance.

In December, members of the ZBA said the Tutto Il Giorno approval wasn’t equivalent to the Style Bar application due to the different circumstances of both businesses.

Of the lawsuit, chairman of the ZBA Michael Bromberg said, “I think our board is right and [the Gurfeins] are wrong.”


Above: A view of the Style Bar.