Tag Archive | "sag harbor village"

Brown To Step Down as Sag Harbor ARB Chairman

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Sag Municipal Building

By Stephen J. Kotz

Cee Scott Brown, the long-time chairman of the Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review, confirmed this week that he would step down when his term expires on July 20.

His decision comes as the village faces a growing chorus of complaints that its various regulatory boards are not doing enough to control the pace of development that has accelerated and spread throughout the village over the past year or two.

Mr. Brown, who said he had been thinking about giving up the post for some time, said his decision was not spurred by any pressure from within or without village government.

Instead, he said he was recultivating a long standing interest in the arts and had recently joined the board of directors of the Parrish Art Museum.

“I thought it would be a good time to step off the ARB and spend time focusing on the Parrish,” he said. “I have enjoyed it, but now it’s someone else’s turn.”

“Cee has done a good job,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride. “I know full well the time and dedication it takes. It’s very easy to stand on the outside and criticize.”

The terms of two other ARB members, Tom Horn Sr. and Bethany Deyermond, also expire this year, as do the terms of two ZBA members, Scott Baker and Jennifer Ponzini. Jeff Peters, a member of the Harbor Committee, has been serving on a holdover status since his term expired in 2013 and the village board did not have the votes to remove him from the post or appoint him to another term.

Just a week ago, on Thursday, April 30, a large crowd turned out at a village board meeting to sound the call for the village to take steps to tighten its zoning code to choke off the proliferation of oversized houses.

Several speakers directed pointed criticism at the village’s Zoning Board of Appeals and the ARB, with much of it aimed directly at Mr. Brown, who is a real estate broker with Corcoran and with his partner, Jack Pearson, is the exclusive representative of the Watchcase condominiums.

Tony Brandt, who served on the village’s original ARB,  said the board originally operated under a strict code of ethics, a code he said that would never have allowed a real estate broker to serve as the board’s chairman.

“We’ve become the laughing stock of the rest of the Hamptons because we have such a conflict of interest,” he said, offering to serve another term if the village board so desired.

“I think it is a terrible conflict of interest to have real estate agents and developers on the ARB,” added Judith Long, a Main Street resident, who also volunteered to serve. Bob Weinstein, a Jefferson Street resident, who has been critical of development in his neighborhood, also said he would be willing to serve.

Neil Slevin, a former planning board and ZBA member, offered to recruit members to serve on boards, an offer Mr. Gilbride happily accepted. “I’ve said this to every person I’ve interviewed, you have to be able to say ‘no,’” the mayor said, adding that Mr. Slevin had that characteristic.

Mr. Brown dismissed claims that he was incapable of being an impartial chairman. “If there is any sort of a conflict, I recuse myself,” he said. “I make it well known if I sold the house. I recuse myself even if it is just a paint color.”

He said had consulted with then-village attorney Anthony Tohill, who assured him it would not be a conflict for him to serve. “The company I work for now didn’t even exist out here” when Bulova was reviewed, he added.

Mr. Brown said he hoped members of Save Sag Harbor would follow through on their commitment to serve. “Every time I try to recruit board members, it’s difficult,” he said. “I hope Save Sag Harbor members would put their names forward and get on these boards rather than point fingers and complain. It would be much more constructive.”

He said as chairman he tried to make the ARB “user friendly” by having board members sit at a table instead of at the elevated dais, and by giving applicants the time they need to present their projects.

The job also requires a substantial effort, he added. “It’s not just something you can show up to twice a month,” he said,  adding that he stops by the Municipal Building to review plans and visits  the sites of projects to better acquaint himself with applications.

Two Trustees Announce They’ll Run for Sag Harbor Mayor

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Sag Harbor Village Trustees Sandra Schroeder and Robby Stein will run for Sag Harbor mayor. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

Sag Harbor Village voters will elect both a new mayor and a new village justice when they go to the polls on June 16.

Although there have been whisperings that Mayor Brian Gilbride would seek a fourth two-year term, he has long said he did not plan on running again and confirmed that in a brief conversation on Wednesday.

The village will also be saying good-bye to Village Justice Andrea Schiavoni, who set up the village justice court in 2010, and said she would not seek a second four-year term.

With the deadline for filing petitions on May 12, two incumbent village trustees, Sandra Schroeder and Robby Stein, say they will run for mayor. Both candidates are in the middle of two-year terms, so they are not in danger of losing their village board seats if they lose the mayoral race.

Incumbent Trustees Ed Deyermond and Ken O’Donnell have also said they plan to run again.

East Hampton Town Justice Lisa Rana, who serves as Sag Harbor’s acting justice when Justice Schiavoni is unavailable, said on Wednesday she would run for the village justice position, as have Michael Bromberg, a village resident and retired attorney and paramedic, and attorney Stephen Grossman, who lives in East Hampton but has based his practice in Sag Harbor for more than 30 years.

“I feel good,” Mayor Gilbride said on Wednesday. At the end of June I will have 21 years of service to the village. I’ve been a trustee, deputy mayor and mayor for six years.”

The mayor said during his tenure the village had completed several public works projects and purchased new equipment without incurring additional debt. “I treat other people’s money with the same respect I treat mine,” he said.

Mr. Gilbride said he looked forward to being “a full-time grandfather” and “having more fun with kids my own age.”

“This is a watershed moment for the village,” said Mr. Stein, who has served as a trustee for seven years. His goals, he said, included creating comprehensive plans to improve village infrastructure and address the many water issues, from drainage to runoff, facing the village.

He said the mayor’s pay-as-you-go approach was laudable, but shortsighted. “If you are ever going to float a bond, this is the time to do it,” he said, pointing out that interest rates are at historic lows and the village has a mounting list of projects to tackle.

Ms. Schroeder, a former village clerk, who ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Gilbride two years ago, when he won a close election against three other candidates, said she was concerned the mayor’s sometimes brusque manner had frayed the relationship between village officials and employees.

Like Mr. Stein, she said she would focus on improving waterfront infrastructure, tackling needed renovations to the Municipal Building and tackling negotiations with the village’s police and employee unions.

Justice Schiavoni said commitments to the law firm Campolo, Middleton & McCormick, which she recently joined, made it too difficult for her to continue to juggle the responsibilities of village justice along with her other position as a Southampton Town justice.

The village board appointed Justice Schiavoni to set up the justice court in October 2010, and she ran for justice the following June. She said it was honor to have a set up what she described “as a good, fair court,” and said she would like to stay on but simply lacked the time since she joined the Ronkonkoma law firm, which recently opened an office in Bridgehampton.

Sag Harbor Village Board Tweaks Budget

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Sag Municipal Building 

By Stephen J. Kotz

After an hour and a half of wrangling over spending, the Sag Harbor Village Board Wednesday added about $11,500 to a proposed $8.58 million budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The board expects to adopt the budget at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, April 14. Spending will increase about 1 percent, and the tax rate will go up about 2 cents per $1,000 of assessed valuation, to about $2.74.

At a sparsely attended hearing on the spending plan, Mayor Brian Gilbride announced that he had cut $40,000 earmarked for a new chief’s vehicle from the Sag Harbor Fire Department’s budget, but had added $10,000 to the line covering the length of service award program, which provides a minor pension payment to retired volunteers.

The mayor said he made the cut to make a proposed paid emergency services provider program for the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps more palatable to residents who live in fire protection districts outside the village. Last week, the board agreed to add $110,000 to the budget to fund that program, which will provide an on-call EMT 12 hours a day seven days a week to provide backup for the corps’ volunteers.

Tom Gardella, the fire department’s first assistant chief, protested the mayor’s decision, saying the department had worked hard to present a budget that cut department spending by 4 percent and had provided for the funding required for the vehicle by moving funds from other lines.

“To me, if you take that vehicle out, you’re taking another $40,000 away from the fire department,” he said.

“I’m just looking at the big picture here,” replied Mr. Gilbride, noting that he was concerned about how the overall increase in spending would be viewed by residents of Noyac, Bay Point, North Haven, and a sliver of East Hampton Town who are in fire protection districts. “I tried to soften the blow the best I could.”

Other board members, who have been largely silent on the budget, then chimed in. Trustee Ken O’Donnell said he was concerned that the chief’s vehicle has more than 100,000 miles on it and said at least one police car is over that limit, with two others approaching it.

Trustee Ed Deyermond, noting that the village’s insurance company frowns on using high mileage cars for emergency services, successfully lobbied for the $30,000 to be restored and another $28,000, which had been cut at a previous budget work session, to be put back in the budget so the police department can buy a new car.

Mr. Gilbride, who said he thought both departments could get by for another year without new vehicles cast the sole dissenting vote.

Trustee Sandra Schroeder said she saw a number of items that warranted a second look, and convinced her colleagues to cut $15,000 from an allotment of $20,000 for outside engineer fees and another $4,000 from technology maintenance. The board did add back $2,500 for records management to cover the cost of additional scanning work and promised to revisit some of the other items Ms. Schroeder was concerned about before voting on the final budget.

Hearing Set on Wetland Law

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The Sag Harbor Village Board  earlier this month voted to extend the moratorium on processing wetlands permits until June 1 and scheduled an April 14 hearing on its revised wetlands law.

The new law will transfer authority over issuing all wetlands setback variances  to the Harbor Committee and take other steps to the village hopes will protect the environment from excessive development.

In the past, the Zoning Board of Appeals was asked to weigh in on wetlands setback variances, with the result that that board would sometimes issue variances before the Harbor Committee could review projects.

Besides granting authority over wetlands permits to the Harbor Committee, the revised law will require applicants to show that they have no alternative than to seek a variance. The law will also include new guidelines for setbacks.

Shopping Local for New Police Hires

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Sag Harbor natives Randy Steyert, pictured above, and Robert Rozzi have recently joined the Sag Harbor Village Police Department. Photography by Stephen J. Kotz. 

By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Village Police Department is taking on a decidedly local appearance with the recent hiring of two new officers, both of whom grew up in the village.

In November, Officer Randy Steyert, who previously had served three years with the New York Police Department, was hired by the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees. Just a month later, Officer Robert Rozzi, who was a part-time officer in East Hampton Town and Southampton Village for the past three years, became the department’s latest hire.

The pair join several other locals on the staff, starting with Chief Tom Fabiano and including Officer Pat Milazzo, Officer Nick Samot, and part-time Officer Michael Labrozzi.

Both Officer Steyert and Officer Rozzi said working in Sag Harbor was a dream come true.

“I love it.  What could be better than working in your hometown?” said Officer Steyert, who is 28 years old and a 2004 Pierson High School graduate. “I’ll do everything I can to try to improve the quality of life here.”


Robert Rozzi joined his hometown police department earlier this year.

“It’s kind of a cliché and cheesy to say you want to give back to the place you grew up in, but that’s how I feel,” said Officer Rozzi, 26, who graduated from Pierson in 2006.

Both officers said they had wanted to be policemen since they were kids. Officer Steyert, the son of Rick and Becky Steyert, won a football scholarship to Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut, where he earned a degree in criminal justice. He ran a fitness business before getting the call from the NYPD.

After completing the police academy, Officer Steyert was given his first assignment: New Year’s Day at 45th Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan. “I was right in the thick of it,” he said. Soon he was transferred to the 32nd Precinct in central Harlem. “It’s known as ‘the tomb of gloom’ because it has the most deaths in the line of duty than any other place in the city,” he said. After only six weeks on the job, he was responding to a call when a suspect fired shots at an officer before being wounded himself.

Officer Rozzi is the son of Robert Rozzi and Michelle Duchemin. He said his stepfather, Kevin Duchemin, an East Hampton Village officer himself, had helped guide him toward a career in law enforcement.

After graduating from Pierson, Officer Rozzi attended Universal Technical Institute in Massachusetts, where he studied automobile mechanics. He landed a job with the East Hampton Village Highway Department before catching on as a seasonal officer with the town and later with Southampton Village.

His first assignment was on foot patrol in Montauk during the height of the summer season. “Essentially, I was dealing with all the drunk people,” he said. “It was quite a scene.”

Officer Rozzi said the wait, after graduating from the police academy in 2012, was well worth it. “It’s everything I thought it would be for a small town. It’s fairly quiet, but there is enough to keep you busy.”

Although Sag Harbor has changed—“I saw it go from Sag Harbor to the Hamptons”—Officer Rozzi said the village retains its small town charm. “It’s nice being a local and knowing all the people and the area,” he said.

Officer Steyert also said he was happy to be home. He left New York shortly before two officers were shot to death in their car by a man who later committed suicide and had bragged beforehand that he was going to avenge the deaths of black men at the hands of police.

“I finished in Central Park,” he said. “You think that’s a safe place, but people are getting their stuff taken every day, there were a couple of rapes, and two gun arrests involving 14-year-old kids.”

“Out here there is not a fear of authority, but of respect, and that makes the job so much easier,” he added.

Canio’s Building on Market

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The Main Street building that is home to Canio’s Books has recently been put on the market for $2.9 million.

Martha Siegler, who owns the 4,500-square-foot building, confirmed it was listed but did not wish to comment further. The building has three apartments and over 800 square feet of storefront retail space, which has been the home of Canio’s Books for 35 years.

Kathryn Szoka, who has run the bookstore with Maryanne Calandrille since 1999, said on Tuesday evening that it was a “very new situation,” adding she had “just found out” the building was on the market.

She and her partner have recently signed a lease, she said, but Ms. Szoka did not wish to discuss the details of it.

“We are hopeful and we’re committed to being in Sag Harbor,” Ms. Szoka said. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the bookstore, which was opened by Canio Pavone in 1980.

“We’re looking forward to this 35th anniversary and we have good hopes going forward,” she added. In celebration of this jubilee, Canio’s will be putting on many different activities, including resurrecting the “Moby Dick” reading marathon this year.

Condo Plan for Schiavoni Building Put on Hold

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The former G.F. Schiavoni Plumbing warehouse on Jermain Avenue, which has been vacant for several years, has most recently served as a tableau for graffitti artists who have painted it with a giant pink whale, the word FREEDUM and a number of tags.

But now, its new owners, 64 Jermain LLC, want to convert the two-story brick and concrete  former factory building into four condominiums.

The most basic of plans were unveiled before the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday, which has been asked to consider changing the use of the property from warehouse/office to condominums, where both would be considered nonconforming in the neighborhood, which is zoned for half-acre residential lots.

The plans showed the existing building being used for the condominums, although no floor plans or elevations were provided. Each unit would have its own deck and pool. Most of the property, about four acres to the rear, which is largely wetlands, would be preserved, with the development rights being transferred to Suffolk County, according to attorney Dennis Downes, who represented the applicants.

According to the application filed with the village building department, 64 Jermain LLC, has a mailing address at 102 Franklin Street in New York City. David Siolverstein and Markus Dochantschi signed paperwork, idenfitying themselves as “members” of the limited liability corporation.

Although Mr. Downes told the board it was merely being asked to consider the change in use, the board’s attorney, Denise Schoen had other ideas. She said if the ZBA ruled on the application, it would be considered “segmentation” under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which is prohibited, “because we haven’t done a full environmental review.” Segmentation occurs when a reviewing board does not look at the total scope of a project during the environmental review process.

She said the application should first be reviewed by the planning board, which would weigh in on the site plan before deciding whether or not to refer it to the ZBA for the use change application.

But Mr. Downes, referring to recent staff changes in the building department, said he had been told by “three building inspectors over six months” that the first step would be to come before the ZBA first.

Ms. Schoen also questioned whether the existing use, as a warehouse and office, had been abandoned by the Schiavonis after they moved their plumbing business out, although Mr. Downes argued that courts had ruled that a use could not be considered abandoned if a property were on the market. If the use were to be abandoned, the property would revert to the half-acre, single-family residential zoning like the rest of the surrounding area.

Before tabling the application, which the board’s environmental consultant, Richard Warren, said would have to be subjected to another public notice, the board opened the matter for public comment.

“Condominiums in the existing building sounds very appealing,” said Anita Guarino, a resident of Joels Lane. “Condominiums with four pools not so much.” She said her major concern was that the wetlands would be protected and that neighbors would be kept informed of the progress of the application.

Paul Babcock, the owner of Cappy Amundsen’s former studio at the corner of Madison Street and Jermain Avenue, was also before the board, seeking a change of use that would allow him to rent a portion of the ground floor of his building to an antique shop or as an office.

His attorney, Mr. Downes, said, that in the 1990s, the ZBA allowed the building, a former neighborhood store, to be converted into three apartments and a studio space for an artist. Various tenants have tried to make a go of it, to no avail, the attorney said. Mr. Babcock was cited by village code enforcement because the previous tenant sold antiques from the space, Mr. Downes said.

Board member Tim McGuire questioned whether the ZBA should allow a retail use. “Do we want to legalize and introduce a business in the middle of a residential area?” he asked.

Fellow board member Scott Baker, who said he lives nearby, said that Sag Harbor, indeed, had a history of small stores, scattered throughout its neighborhoods, but questioned if allowing changes would create a parking problem.

The board tabled the matter, pending receipt of a scaled floor plan, showing the 508-square-foot area,  Mr. Downes said, would be used for a store or office.

In a straw vote, over the objection of member Brendan Skislock, the board said it would not be inclined to grant at least two of five variances requested by Steven Barr to build an addition to his house at 43 Howard Street.

One of the variances turned down would have allowed 23.7-percent building coverage, where the code allows 20 percent, and the other would have sought total coverage of 32 percent, where the code allows 25 percent.

Mr. Baker, who is Mr. Barr’s architect, recused himself from the review. “Fundamentally, the project is too large,” said Neil Slevin, the board’s alternate, who sat in for Mr. Baker.

“This is a very large additon to the historic house,” said Mr. McGuire. “I think it needs a redesign.”

Chairman Anton Hagen said he regretted that the hearing was closed the same night it was opened, on November 25, because it did not allow an opportunity for the project to be scaled back.

At that hearing, Mia Grosjean, who lives next door, and two other neighbors, objected to the size of the addition. Although Mr. Barr reached an accomodation with the other two neighbors, Ms. Grosjean continued her opposition.

Although she was not present at Tuesday’s meeting, she tried to listen in, via the cell phone of Jayne Young of Save Sag Harbor who had her on speaker phone. Twice, Ms. Grosjean’s voice interupted the proceedings when she said she could not hear what was going on, causing Mr. Hagen to ask for silence.

After the board took its vote, Mr. Downes questioned members whether Ms. Grosjean had discussed the application with them after the hearing. Mr. Hagen said she had spoken to him, to ask if there was a possibility that the deadline for comment could be extended beyound December 1 but had not discussed specifics of the case or tried to sway his vote.







A New Walk-In Medical Center for Sag Harbor

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By Mara Certic

Sag Harborites preparing for cold winter weather to hit can take some comfort in knowing that a new walk-in medical center is slated to open up in the village by the middle of next month.

Dr. Ilona Polak, who currently works at the Wainscott Walk In Medical Care, has decided the time is right to open a practice of her own, which will be located at 34 Bay Street, next to GeekHampton, as early as mid-January.

“I’m very privileged and excited to be able to serve the community of Sag Harbor,” said Dr. Polak, who is board certified in family medicine.  There are currently no practicing doctors in the village, apart from Dr. John Oppenheimer, who is a concierge doctor. Southampton Hospital’s Meeting House Lane practice has an office in Noyac.

Dr. Polak has been practicing medicine for a little over a decade. She began her studies in Europe and continued her medical education at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and then at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Dr. Polak completed her residency at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey.

She has been practicing medicine on the East End for the past five years, and has privileges at Southampton Hospital.

The location has been issued a building permit to add a bathroom and to install four medical examine rooms.

Dr. Polak declined to comment about any potential future partners at the practice at this time.

As it stands now, Dr. Polak will accept the following insurance: Blue Cross, Medicare, Oxford, United Healthcare, Health Republic, Island Group, Cigna, NYShip, Americgroup, Pomco and Meritrain.

Village Reaches Settlement With CSEA Union

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The Sag Village Board, which last summer, came to contract terms with its police department union, has reached an agreement with the Civil Service Employees Association, which represents most of its other employees.

The agreement, which is retroactive to May 31, 2013, and lasts until May 31, 2015, will award all CSEA employees with a flat $5,000 salary increase, no matter what their current base salary.

Mayor Brian Gilbride this week said that many village employees are currently paid at lower rates than their counterparts in other municipalities and the raise was an effort to rectify the disparity.

The contract also includes a provision that would require CSEA employees, upon 90 days notice from the village, to switch to a health insurance plan offered by Empire Blue Cross, should the village make that switch. Mr. Gilbride said the village is currently self-insured through a plan administered by the Island Group in East Hampton. The mayor said he expected the village to make the switch to the Empire Blue Cross plan as a cost-cutting measure next year.

Finally, the new contract requires that all CSEA employees submit to random drug testing. Mr. Gilbride said the village has a drug-free policy but has not required the testing before. He said there was no specific reason to require the drug testing now, other than for safety concerns, because village employees operate vehicles and other equipment. “My job is to keep the village safe,” he said.

The village and its union reached a tentative contract agreement on September 14, but the details were not finalized until last month.

At its November 12 meeting, the village board transferred $101,420 from a contingency fund and general fund balance to provide for the salary hikes.

New Bookstore Coming to Sag Harbor’s Main Street

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By Mara Certic

A new bookstore called Harbor Books is scheduled to open on Main Street in Sag Harbor just in time for the holiday season.

“There is truth to the rumor. I am opening up an independent bookstore,” Taylor Rose Berry said in a phone interview on Monday morning.

Ms. Berry, a resident of Sag Harbor, got all of her bookstore experience working at BookHampton, she said.

“I was lucky to learn so much from the folks over there,” she said. “It reaffirmed how much I love the book industry.”

“As a resident of Sag Harbor, I thought it was time to open a book store,” she added. “I thought it was the right moment.”

Harbor Books will be located at 20 Main Street, where BookHampton stood until the owners decided the 2,200-square-foot space was too big for their needs. For the past two years, the building has housed Hampton Culinary, which was open seasonally and sold kitchen goods.

By next month, if everything goes according to plan, 20 Main Street will become a new and improved version of its former incarnation.

Ms. Berry said she is trying to emulate the ambiance of an “old English bookstore.” There will be “big cozy chairs,” and free Wi-Fi, she said, adding she has already bought two sofas from her new neighbors at Black Swan Antiques that will be in the “really cool salon area.”

Ms. Berry added she already has some “amazing” author events lined up, as well as organized story times for the younger set.

Harbor Books will also be home to Sag Harbor’s very own “Phantom Tollbooth,” as both an homage to Norton Juster’s 1961 fairytale and also a place for imaginations to run wild.

“Eventually we’ll have a café,” she added, “but that’s a while down the road”

“I want the community to feel like they have a place to hang their hats in the village,” Ms. Berry said. Her current plan is to open the store on November 22.

“But we shall see,” she said. “That’s my goal.”

Since BookHampton closed, Sag Harbor’s only bookstore has been Canio’s, at 290 Main Street, a few blocks south of downtown.