Tag Archive | "MTA"

MTA Aims to Tackle Some SEEDS Ideas

Tags: , , ,

By Claire Wall

Do you remember when you could see a flicker of light at the end of the Long Island Rail Road tunnel?

Well, according to those integrally linked to the future of transportation here on the East End, it may be faint, but it’s still there.

It’s been 10 years since local transportation experts banned together under the leadership of the New York Mass Transit Council (NYMTC) to create SEEDS: Sustainable East End Development Strategies. And while not much has been said of the plan since it came to a conclusion in 2005, those at the helm of the effort believe change is afoot.

“I’m optimistic,” said New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. of the possibility of increasing rail service between Patchogue and Montauk. He noted that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) has already allotted $80 million in its capital plan for 2010 – 2015 for small diesel trains, called “scoot trains,” that would be added to rail lines to increase the frequency of train service in the east.

What’s more, as Southampton Town Director of Transportation Tom Neely pointed out, the MTA has also reserved $50 million in its five-year capital plan to create an electronic signal system on the South Fork. One of the biggest issues responsible for the infrequency of train travel between Patchogue and Montauk, Neely explained, is that train operators on this leg of the LIRR track are in “dark territory”: they’re not in communication with one another, so two trains headed for each other on the same track would have no way of knowing they’re aiming for a collision.

“It’s the same way they did it 150 years ago,” he exclaimed.

While funding is only really targeted for this service at this point and is not a total guarantee, Thiele continued by saying, for him, seeing this support from the MTA “is a step in the right direction.”

It also helps, Thiele continued, that the newly elected Suffolk County Legislator Steve Bellone “has endorsed all of this,” having made transportation his number one East End issue on the campaign trail.

“We’ve had the most support we’ve ever had on this,” he added.

Comprising nearly five years of research, the SEEDS study lays out comprehensive plans for both sustainable growth in terms of population and infrastructure, and increasing the frequency and efficiency of public transportation on the East End. In the end, the two go hand-in-hand. In building up village and hamlet centers to be high-density and therefore low-impact, this would create opportunities on the East End for implementing transit centers.

Neely pointed to the new development plan at the Bulova building in Sag Harbor as a good example of sustainable growth. Because it aims to create high density residences in a downtown area, “it’s a very good example of a development that can make good use of public transportation,” he said.

Recognizing the problems with scant train service on the East End and the subsequent absence of a coordinated bus system, the SEEDS study ultimately resulted in two plans aimed at increasing train travel to and from the East End, Neely said.

The system would ideally function with inter-modal transportation hubs. After restoring train service to Calverton and Gabreski Airport, Neely said there would be at least five major inter-modal hubs (linking train and bus services) throughout the East End: East Hampton and Southampton Villages, Hampton Bays and downtown Riverhead. The SEEDS study also discussed the need for a water taxi between the North and South Forks, which would necessitate an inter-modal transportation hub in Greenport, as well.

“To move forward we would need strong political report,” said Neely, who played a significant role in overseeing the SEEDS process. The feeder bus systems alone are estimated to cost more than $1 million to fully implement.

While he did say Congressman Tim Bishop had once requested $1 million in earmarked funds to continue this project, the poor economic climate has impacted the state’s ability to move forward in support of this.

“Earmarks are pretty much dead in the water at this point in Congress, “Neely said.

And while Assemblyman Thiele has also drafted two bills, one to create a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Council and the other to create a Peconic Bay Regional Transportation Authority, he said legislators have thus far failed to act on either measure.

Ideally, Neely said the five towns of the East End — Southampton, East Hampton, Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southold — should work together to create a Transportation Development District, as NYMTC recommended. However, at this moment, nothing seems to be moving forward on that front.

While he continues to hope the MTA will pull through and put its money where its mouth is, in the meantime Neely said efforts to rebuild and construct the towns of the East End in environmentally sustainable ways will have to be done on a local level. Southampton Town, for example, has adopted a Complete Streets policy that will encourage new developments to consider adding bike lanes and sidewalks, for example, when repaving town roads.

In the end, Neely hopes legislators will continue to work to get state funding to act on the SEEDS plan.

“Anything would be better than what we have right now,” he continued. “Which is nothing.”

Transit Dilemma

Tags: , , , ,

by Karl Grossman

The East End of Long Island and public transportation—unlike love and marriage—don’t go together. It need not be that way. Indeed, a lesson through the years here: when public transportation is provided, riders will come.

Travel on the East End is auto-based. And there’s been mounting congestion as a result, particularly during the vacation season. This July 4th weekend featured bumper-to-bumper traffic on several area roadways, notably Route 27 between Southampton and Amagansett.

Meanwhile, on the same weekend there was a breakthrough in public transportation here: long-desired Sunday and holiday bus service. Rolling in a “pilot” program was the main East End county bus, the S-92. It winds from Orient Point along the North Fork to Greenport and then Riverhead, south through Flanders to Hampton Bays, then east to Southampton Village, Water Mill, Bridgehampton and north to Sag Harbor. Then it travels south again to East Hampton, hooking up with the 10C that goes between East Hampton and Montauk which also began Sunday and holiday service.

This took seven years of hard politicking by Suffolk County Legislators Jay Schneiderman and Ed Romaine. Mr. Schneiderman represents the Towns of Southampton and East Hampton and Mr. Romaine’s district includes Shelter Island, Riverhead and Southold Towns..

“It’s off to a good start,” says Mr. Schneiderman of the service expansion to seven days a week. The S-92 has the highest Saturday ridership in the county. A $1.50 regular fare, in place for almost 20 years on all Suffolk buses, has been increased to $2 on the two lines to help pay for the new service. Other fares—including 50 cents for senior citizens—remain the same.

“It’s another step forward,” commented State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, a champion of a broad public transportation initiative—a coordinated shuttle train and bus network—that has been sought for the East End.

Mr. Thiele said funding for the “small diesel engines” that would pull the trains has now been included in the state’s capital budget for 2013. “I’m optimistic,” he says. These shuttle trains would use the tracks of the Long Island Rail Road and the goal, explains Mr. Thiele, is to have them operated by an East End Transportation Authority,  similar to the Cape Cod Regional Transportation Authority.  

There was a change of emphasis by the Long Island Rail Road when it was taken over in 1966 by what was then called the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation Authority (now Metropolitan Transportation Authority). The LIRR’s main focus became commuter service in and out of Manhattan for what in the post World War II years became a vast bedroom community for the city on western Long Island.  LIRR service on the East End has been very limited. East Enders pay over $100 million annually to the MTA—through the sales tax, parts of mortgage recording and telephone taxes and now a major payroll tax—getting very little in return.

Jim Davidson demonstrated in the following decade that when public transportation is offered here, it will attract riders. Mr. Davidson in 1974 created the Hampton Jitney—which has become an amazing East End public transportation success story.

A former advertising art director, Jim started with two vans pulling trailers, ferrying people and their bicycles to and from beaches and other points between Amagansett and Southampton. Hampton Jitney’s service now involves 49 buses transporting folks dependably and in comfort from both the North and South Forks to and from the city. The Hampton Jitney is doing what the LIRR or MTA could have easily organized—and made money doing.  In fact, the LIRR fought the Hampton Jitney as it sought a state license for its Manhattan service.

Another example of people using public transportation on the East End when it is offered came in 2007 and 2008 with the widening of County Road 39 in Southampton. The LIRR operated a shuttle train service between Speonk and East Hampton. It was too bad that when the construction ended, the service was stopped.

Nationally, a battle is underway to get Congress to provide adequately for public transportation—which “protects our environment” by cutting carbon emissions, “reduces our dependence on foreign oil….creates jobs” and “enhances our quality of life,” says the American Public Transportation Association on its website www.publictransportation. “While Americans struggle with rising gas prices and a sluggish economy, America needs public transportation more than ever.”  That’s especially true of Long Island’s East End.

MTA Officially Awards Waterfront Property to Developer

Tags: , ,

By Kathryn G. Menu

At its December meeting, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) officially agreed to sell a 16,405 square-foot waterfront property adjacent to New York State Route 114 in Sag Harbor to a developer who has long sought, unsuccessfully, to construct condominiums on a neighboring parcel.

Nalex International Development Corporation was awarded the property for $201,000.

The Village of Sag Harbor also placed a bid on the Long Island Rail Road-owned parcel when the MTA announced the public sale earlier this year. It made the only other offer on the property, for $90,101 with the hopes of using the parcel and adjacent village beachfront in the creation of a public park.

According to Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, that was the maximum amount the village could offer as, by law, it is limited to offering no more than 10 percent over the minimum $82,500 the MTA sought for the property.

According to public records, Nalex International Development Corporation is a New York City-based company founded in 1990 with annual sales figures of $240,000. It has one employee, Emil Talel, the developer who successfully gained village approval for the 21 West Water Street condominium project — a project that stalled in the last year while developers attempted to renegotiate financing with its lender Amalgamated Bank.

On Tuesday, Gilbride said he believed the MTA’s decision to award the property to Talel was financial in nature, which goes against legislation passed earlier this year that requires public entities like the MTA look at public benefits as well as monetary gain when selling property.

“I am sure this was based on $201,000 and nothing more,” he said.

Gilbride added the village would look at all available legal options in coming weeks. In the meantime, Gilbride said he wondered if Talel was prepared to pay for the MTA land. He noted the approved West Water Street 19-unit condo project has been in limbo for over a year now, with several million dollars in liens levied against the unfinished project by contractors and subcontractors who have performed work on the site, but have yet to be paid.

On Tuesday, Talel said that it is his hope construction will resume in “the next couple of weeks.”

“We are in the process of finalizing agreement with the bank,” he said, adding once construction begins he expects the project will be completed in three to four months, just in time for the summer season.

Talel is also a part of the firm that sought to develop the Ferry Road condominiums next to the Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge on a parcel adjacent to the property he just acquired from the MTA.

During the course of village review on several different versions of that project, the village code changed, and in its change, the number of allowed condo units on the parcel was reduced. That resulted in Telal’s firm East End Ventures filing two lawsuits against the village, its consultant and attorney and members of the board of trustees.

In the suits, including a $30 million civil action against the village, East End Ventures claims it was led to believe it was exempt from the new code. It also claims the code was not adopted correctly by the village board.
The cases are both still pending with depositions set to begin in next week. According to Gilbride, the village filed a motion of dismissal almost a year ago, but has yet to be heard.

On Tuesday, Talel said the village has refused to take meetings with him or his representatives, leaving them with no choice but to move forward with the lawsuits. Developing the Ferry Road parcel under the current zoning, said Talel, would reduce his proposed 18-unit project to roughly seven units.

“We cannot build anything there right now that makes economic sense with the new zoning,” he said. “This is just where we are at, unfortunately.”
Talel added that he is still open, now as the official owner of the MTA property, to offering the village an easement on all public areas around the Ferry Road parcel.

“We are not vicious people,” continued Talel. “But if we win this suit, and we do have a chance, I don’t know how the village will be able to handle it. We will be talking about millions in wasted dollars.”

On Tuesday, Gilbride called the suits “frivolous,” and said if Talel would like a meeting with him, the suits will need to be dropped first.

“I would love to see some project there, honestly,” said Gilbride. “And if it complies with the code, we will go out of our way to help them. I even talked to the bank in an attempt to help re-finance 21 West Water Street. I can’t walk into Schiavoni’s [Market] anymore without someone asking me about that.”

Sag Harbor Village to Bid on MTA Parcel

Tags: , , , ,

Next Friday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Long Island Railroad will auction off a 16,405 square-foot, waterfront property in Sag Harbor – a piece of property both the Village of Sag Harbor and condominium developers East End Ventures plan to bid on.

The property, which is adjacent to village beachfront and East End Ventures property, where they hoped to develop the stalled Ferry Road condominiums, is already the subject of an adverse possession claim by East End Ventures.

That claim has yet to be adjudicated, and according to the MTA’s request for proposal, in addition to the purchase price at a minimum bid of $82,500, whoever takes ownership of the land will become the defendant in that case and must indemnify the MTA and the LIRR in any future lawsuits over the sale of the property.

This week, East End Ventures principal Emil Telal said that after unsuccessful negotiations with the village through the MTA to allow the developers to purchase the land and offer the village easement for a proposed waterfront park, he is prepared to offer a full easement to the village and has instructed his attorney Dennis Downes to do so.

“What was offered originally was a full easement in two stages,” said Telal on Tuesday, with the complete easement guaranteed once the Ferry Road condominiums were approved. That condo project is currently tied up in litigation between East End Ventures and the Village of Sag Harbor after the developers filed a $30 million claim against the village last year. They argue the village, in the revision of its zoning code, specifically sought to stall plans for the proposed luxury condominium project.

That case has yet to be decided.

On Tuesday, Telal said he would have offered the full easement initially if he had been directly involved in negotiations “to illustrate our good intentions.”

“People can walk there, people can sit there and this was my decision on the matter because I didn’t feel it would interfere with anything we would build there one day,” said Telal, adding he believes the village is attempting to purchase the property to further frustrate East End Ventures, which needs ownership of the parcel for access to the waterfront, which would enable them to construct docks, if approved, at the site as part of their development plans.

“Why would you buy it, if you can get it for free,” he asked. “It is an unbelievable disservice to the Village of Sag Harbor. They are going to throw away a minimum of $82,000 and we are confident we will win our adverse possession claim.”

Telal claimed East End Ventures could ultimately get the land for nothing, with the Village of Sag Harbor having to cover tens of thousands of dollars in legal expenses as the new defendant in the case, should they be the winning bidder of the parcel.

Telal believed he had a deal to purchase the property from the MTA and expected the contract to be finalized when the village expressed interest in the property as well, which trustees have said they hope to develop with adjacent beachfront into a waterfront park.

However, according to New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr., who is also the attorney for the Village of Sag Harbor, state law regarding public authorities like the MTA has changed, and part of that change requires authorities to publicly auction properties they are trying to dispose of, rather than make deals behind closed doors.

On Tuesday, Telal noted as a part of the original plans for the Ferry Road condominiums, East End Ventures had already planned on creating a public waterfront park at the site at their own expense.

“All of this can be resolved before next Friday,” he added.

On Tuesday, Mayor Brian Gilbride said the only easement the village was offered in negotiations was for an eight-foot wide public walkway.

“It was not total access,” he said. “That was what we wanted – total and complete access.”

Gilbride said East End Ventures does not own the property at this point with the adverse possession claim yet to be decided and therefore a full easement is not something Telal is in a position to negotiate. He added that he is confident the village will be the winning bidder.

“Once all these cases are dismissed, I would absolutely be willing to sit down and work with this developer,” continued Gilbride. “This board is working as hard as we can to get things up and running in the village. That is what is great about Sag Harbor.”

Sag Harbor Village Expected to Bid on MTA Property

Tags: , , ,


The Village of Sag Harbor will bid on a 16,405 square-foot, waterfront property owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Long Island Railroad – a piece of land the developers of the stalled Ferry Road condominium property are also trying to acquire through an adverse possession claim.

On June 4, the Village of Sag Harbor received the MTA’s request for proposal (RFP) packet for the sale of the property after having expressed interest in the land for a number of years. While the developers of a proposed luxury condominium project adjacent to the LIRR-owned land, East End Ventures, originally said they were in contract to buy the property from the MTA, after those talks stalled, they filed an adverse possession claim with the county Supreme Court.

That claim has yet to be adjudicated, according to Sag Harbor Village Attorney Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and according to the RFP the site is being sold subject to that claim and any purchaser will be substituted as the defendant in that case and must indemnify the MTA and the LIRR in any further claims against the authorities for selling the land.

East End Ventures has also cited the village’s interest in the parcel in a $30 million claim against the village, its attorneys and planning consultant. They argue the village, in the revision of its zoning code, specifically sought to stall plans for the proposed luxury condominium project.

That case is also ongoing.

According to Thiele, the MTA has gone out publicly to bid on the parcel as a part of changes to state laws regarding how public authorities operate.

“There have been a lot of concerns about the way public authorities operated typically,” said Thiele of the public authority reform bill. “There have been concerns over the lack of transparency, openness and accountability.”

Thiele said governing bodies of public authorities are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate, but after that they have been able to operate independently. One change in the legislation, that particularly affects Sag Harbor and this piece of LIRR-owned land, is a new requirement where, when authorities dispose of land, they must publicly offer it in an RFP. Thiele said previously, there were cases where authorities disposed of land to private entities “behind closed doors” without local public input or the knowledge of local government.

Now that the MTA has publicly put the sale of the land out to bid — with a minimum purchase price of $82,500 — Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said this week the village would certainly bid on the property with the hopes of creating a larger waterfront park for residents.

According to Thiele, when the MTA entertains the various bids submitted — the deadline is July 23 — it must not only consider taking the highest financial offer, but must look at the community benefit of any sale.

“Obviously this is somewhat relevant here because there is the potential interest of the village in the property,” he said. “And there would be an overt public benefit to the taxpayers of the State of New York if a public park was created.”

Southampton Town to Join Suit Over MTA

Tags: ,


By Marissa Maier

On Monday, March 29, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst braved the precipitation at the Ronkonkoma train station to make a surprising announcement. Joined by the supervisors of the towns of Brookhaven, Huntington, Smithtown, Islip, Riverhead and Babylon, Throne-Holst said the municipalities intend to file a lawsuit against New York State over the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) employer “Payroll” tax.

Similar to a lawsuit filed by William Schoolman, President of Classic Coach and the Hampton Luxury Liner, the towns argue the payroll tax bill breached the state constitution. At the press conference, the supervisors pointed out the legislation required a home rule message from the chief executive of each of the counties affected by the tax. The bill also failed to garner support from two-thirds of the state legislature, which is a requirement of a special law, or law that only affects a portion of the state.

“As town leaders, we work most intimately with the constituent base, and together we want to make it abundantly clear to the state that the payroll tax is an unacceptable way to pay for the shortfalls caused by poor financial planning,” said Throne-Holst. “As local representatives, it is our responsibility to stand up to the state for handing down inappropriate and, we believe, illegal ways to tax our residents with no justifiable level of service in return.”

Last year, the state legislature approved the payroll tax as a way to shore up the MTA’s $1.2 billion deficit. The tax charges employers an additional $34 for every $1,000 of payroll and applies to governments, schools and not-for profit organizations. According to Southampton Town, the county has contributed roughly $100 million toward the new tax with the town spending around $50,000. As part of his budget amendments, Governor David Paterson unveiled possible amendments to the payroll tax levy in early February. He proposes removing the fixed tax rate of $34 per $1000 of payroll. Instead, New York City employers would pay $54, while counties lying outside of New York City would pay $17 per $1,000. The state budget will be passed today, April 1.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Jr. of Sag Harbor, though, would like to see an outright repeal of the payroll tax. He added officials in Albany are taking note of these lawsuits.

“There are a number of things they are taking seriously,” said Thiele. “First was the litigation brought by the Hampton Luxury Liner. Now you have a number of towns bringing forward a lawsuit. In addition you had a couple of special elections for assembly seats about a month ago [in which] Democrats lost seats and the MTA payroll tax was a factor in these races.”

Thiele specifically cited assembly seats in White Plains and East Patchogue, which were traditionally held by Democrats but were won by the Republican candidates in the special elections. Assemblyman Dean Murray of East Patchogue was outspoken in his criticism of the Democratic support for the payroll tax, added Thiele, and Murray called for a forensic audit of the MTA’s finances.

“I am glad these actions are being taken right now in the middle of the budget process,” added Thiele of the lawsuits. “It is on the radar screen, but I don’t minimize the fact that Albany seems to be dominated by the New York City interest. Part of the battle we have to fight is with the governor and the two legislative leaders who are from New York City.”

Sue ‘em

Tags: , ,

Local towns, including Southampton, stood up for their constituents this week, deciding to file a suit against the state to fight the unwise, and possibly illegal, tax Albany approved to help pay off the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s debt. That the state should think the MTA’s gross negligence is something the small towns of Eastern Long Island should pay for is insulting. Considering the lack of service we receive from the MTA’s local arm, the Long Island Rail Road, we should be the last place they should be looking for support.

We are thankful for our town representatives — and local sate representative Fred Thiele — for their efforts. Here is something that will actually save us real money.

If you think of this in real cash, a small business with a $500,000 annual payroll, would be spending an aditional $1,700 in taxes for services they don’t really enjoy. An extra $1,700 each year, in these tough economic times, can be a struggle for many small businesses who are already operating on an extremely thin margin. Frankly, it’s an onus we don’t think we should be carrying, nor can afford to carry.

We look forward to a state budget, which is slated to be passed today, that will include a modified amount in tax for the MTA bailout. Our druthers is that we pay nothing towards an agency that has demonstrated nothing but incompetence and contempt for the people it chooses to abuse on the East End.

High Cost of No Transit

Tags: ,

We’re thrilled to see the anti-MTA payroll tax movement picking up steam here on the East End. Of all the insults taxpayers and residents of this part of the world have suffered in recent years, perhaps none makes our blood boil quite like this ridiculous payroll tax.

For the uninitiated, this is a tax that all employers must pay ($34 on every $1,000 in payroll) directly to the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority), an entity that moves the commuters of New York City and its near suburbs on a daily basis, but which provides laughable service to the East End. This week, Southampton Town discussed joining a lawsuit filed recently against the MTA and its tax by William Schoolman, owner of the Classic Coach and Hampton Luxury Liner.

Schoolman’s anger at the tax is easy to understand. How would you feel if you were a business required, by law, to funnel money directly into the pockets of your competition? If one could even call the MTA Schoolman’s “competition.” With only four trains on a good day, it’s not as if the agency, recipient of billions in taxpayer money, provides even a fraction of the service the Luxury Liner is able to offer on the East End without public funding.

So spurred on by Schoolman’s lead, the Town of Southampton is now considering legal action either by joining Schoolman’s suit or initiating one of their own. Just for the record, Southampton Town (and therefore, taxpayers) have already shelled out $50,000 towards the payroll tax.

Though Governor Paterson recently unveiled amendments to the tax which, if approved, would reduce the liability to outlying areas, like ours, to $17 per $1,000 of payroll, we’d rather just see this tax go away altogether. In fact, why can’t we make the MTA go away as well? Maybe a lawsuit or two will bring the kind of momentum we could use in our favor to finally create the Peconic Bay Regional Transit Authority and take transportation (and ideally, transportation tax dollars) into our own hands.

In the face of financial woes in both towns and people here in dire need of jobs and benefits, the fact that the MTA feels we should give them a handout is absurd and insulting. Now that they’ve got our money, it’s clear from the MTA’s recent threat to discontinue weekend service to the North Fork that we can expect only less service from this entity in the future.

As a side note, the Suffolk County Legislature this week approved a bill introduced by legislator Jay Schneiderman to increase fares on county bus routes. The increase would go toward initiating Sunday bus service, which is currently not available, but vital to workers with no other viable source of transportation to their jobs (certainly not the MTA).

So we would like to take this opportunity to encourage Southampton Town to seriously look into its legal options against the MTA tax and we invite East Hampton, North Haven and Sag Harbor to consider it as well. Maybe Southampton Hospital, an organization that has struggled to support itself in recent years, should join the suit as well. The hospital has paid $150,000 toward the payroll tax so far. We somehow doubt that any hospital workers were able to commute to their jobs by MTA — and are left wondering how much extra they had to pay to get to work on Sundays because the county buses don’t run.

Village May Consider Taking MTA Property

Tags: , , ,

Sag Harbor’s Mayor Brian Gilbride is so determined that the village take over a piece of land near the waterfront that he is considering condemning it.

The sliver of land — a former roadbed owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority that once led to the original bridge leading to North Haven — is currently in contract to be sold to East End Ventures, a development company that has proposed to build a condominium complex on the adjacent property at the foot of the current bridge. The land the roadbed sits on would help mitigate the variance the developer needs for the project and, in one plan, would be used to access the proposed 18 boat slips that would go along with the condos.

But the village would like to marry the parcel to waterfront property it already owns, and create a park that would serve as a gateway to the village for people coming across the bridge.

“This really fits into the village’s plan for a park,” said Gilbride this week.

Gilbride and the village were peeved when the MTA announced recently that it intended to sell to the developer, since the village had made several overtures in recent years hoping to acquire it themselves. About ten years ago, in fact, the village had actually commissioned a landscape design for the property by renowned landscape architect Edmund Hollander.

Gilbride said in an interview Tuesday that condemnation through eminent domain was “certainly an option” and he would raise the subject when the village board meets this coming Tuesday.

“We’ve been advised by our attorneys that his was a way to go,” said Gilbride of condemnation.

The relationship between the village and the developer has become more combative in recent weeks, with the developer filing a suit against the board and others charging a recently-approved zoning code was intended to discourage its development of the property known as 1 Ferry Road, the former Dr. Harry Diner property, at the foot of the bridge. Last week the village received a notice of claim from East End Ventures which, among other things, told the village “to stop talking to the MTA,” according to Gilbride.

“I mean, this is still America isn’t it,” said the mayor, who called the action “an insult.”

The developers said they would agree to give the village access to the property for a pedestrian walkway, but Gilbride said, in a plan he saw, “at one point the walkway seems to go into the water.”

“It’s unacceptable,” said the mayor, adding that, coupled with the “threat” from the notice of claim, he felt the village had been insulted twice.

According to their agreement, East End Ventures will pay fair market value — or $82,500 — for the piece of property. If the village were to go ahead with condemnation proceedings, Gilbride feels they may be able to get it for less, since they already have an easement on the property. 

Gilbride Takes Fight for MTA Roadbed to Governor

Tags: , , ,

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride has taken his battle to secure a sliver of waterfront property belonging to the Long Island Railroad to Governor David Paterson this week after receiving word the land would be sold to an adjacent property owner and not the village.

On August 19, Gilbride penned a letter to the governor, state senator Kenneth LaValle, state assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. and Queens Borough President Helen M. Marshall, asking Paterson to assist the village in acquiring a parcel of land next to village owned beachfront adjacent to the Jordan Haerter Memorial Bridge. Last week the village was told by the Metropolitan Transit Authority that it would sell the land to East End Ventures, an adjacent property owner that has long sought to develop condominiums on Sag Harbor’s waterfront.

According to a letter from MTA vice president-general counsel and secretary Catherine Rinaldi, the MTA board approved the sale of the property to East End Ventures in July at a fair market price of $82,025. Rinaldi writes that under public authority law, the MTA was required to seek fair market value for the parcel and the sale would end current litigation between the MTA and East End Ventures, which has sought adverse possession of the parcel. Rinaldi said part of the sale includes a provision that allows an easement for public access.

“The LIRR has determined that it is in the best interests to proceed with the sale of the property to the plaintiff, as authorized by the MTA Board,” writes Rinaldi in a letter received by the village on August 24. “The LIRR will be conveying the property to the plaintiff via quitclaim deed, which means the plaintiff will only be getting those interests that the LIRR has the power to convey. Importantly, the deed does not extinguish any rights that the village may have in the property, and the village’s outside counsel may still elect to assert a legal interest in the subject parcel on the village’s behalf.”

In Gilbride’s letter to Governor Paterson, the mayor asserts the village’s prior legal claim to the abandoned roadway, citing a LIRR express easement granted to the village in 1915. Gilbride notes the village has had numerous correspondences with the MTA regarding the parcel since 1996, which it was conceived adjacent beachfront already owned by the village could be turned into a park using the LIRR land.

“The MTA failed to consult the Village or take into account the clear public benefit and long term public use of the land,” writes Gilbride.

“Sag Harbor has been in for the forefront of maintaining and expanding public access to the Waterfront and is proud to be the first Village in our State to adopt a [Local Waterfront Revitalization Plan],” Gilbride continues later in the letter. “The acquisition of this parcel would continue this important tradition.”

On Tuesday Gilbride said despite the letter from the MTA, the village planned to continue this fight, noting that in addition to the board of trustees, residents and government officials alike have been reaching out to Governor Paterson to assist the village in this venture.

In related village news, the board of trustees has hired the law firm of Jaspan Schlesinger to fight a lawsuit filed against the village earlier this month by East End Ventures regarding the environmental review of the village’s new code. They claim village officials did not review the new code properly before its passage. The code drastically changes what is possible on the waterfront property East End Ventures hoped to develop into luxury condominiums.