Tag Archive | "sag harbor village"

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.

Promotion for Clerk

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The Sag Harbor Village Board, during a work session Tuesday that touched on many unresolved issues in the village, could agree on one thing: that Beth Kamper, the current village clerk should be given the additional title of village administrator.

“It should be looked at. I think Beth deserves it,” said Trustee Ken O’Donnell.

Mayor Brian Gilbride noted that former clerk Sandra Schroeder, who is now a trustee, was also given both titles and said there was money in the budget to pay for the added duties, although he did not specify how much.

As village administrator, Ms. Kamper would be able to sign certain permits and applications, and other duties delegated by the village board that would oversee the day-to-day operations of the village, the mayor said.

Although the board agreed it would make the appointment, it decided to hold off until its next formal meeting, on November 12.

Mayor Gilbride, responding to what he called a “manifesto” of unfinished business raised by Trustee Robbie Stein, suggested that the board should try to hold more regular work sessions to try to whittle away at the list. Among the items on Mr. Stein’s list was the need for a capital spending plan; Municipal Building renovations, including the installation of a new elevator to the third floor; finding more spaces in existing village parking lots; and tackling stormwater runoff and groundwater issues, among others.

In other action, the board hired Bonnie Engelhardt to assist with clerical duties at a rate of $23 per hour related to a Records Management Grant awarded to the village. It also agreed to give village Treasurer Eileen Tuohy a raise, although the resolution did not specify an amount.

The board also agreed to hire Robert C. Rozzi as a part-time police officer at the rate of $23 per hour and allowed Chief Thomas Fabiano to hire Robert T. Sproston and Christian Denton for training purposes to become part-time officers. Both will remain on unpaid leave of absence at least until training starts at the Suffolk County Police Academy on December 1.



Sag Harbor Hires New Senior Building Inspector

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Municipal Building

By Stephen J. Kotz

East Hampton Town’s current chief building inspector, Tom Preiato, will join Sag Harbor Village as its senior building inspector on November 7.

Jose Escalante, who was hired this summer to replace Tim Platt as village inspector, will stay on for now as a building inspector and work under Mr. Preiato.

Mr. Preiato was one of the finalists for the opening last summer but said he withdrew from consideration in part because taking the job would have required a major pay cut.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride on Tuesday morning said the village board saw an opportunity to improve the efficiency of its building department at a time when the village is undergoing a major building boom by reaching out to Mr. Preiato, who has more than 15 years of experience as a building inspector with East Hampton Town.

“He’s been in the trenches a long time,” Mr. Gilbride said.

“No disrespect to Jose,” the mayor added. “He didn’t have the field experience. It was baptism by fire for him.”

The village’s move came as a surprise to many employees at the Municipal Building, who said they knew nothing about the village’s intention to hire a new building inspector until this week.

Mr. Preiato, who is a Sag Harbor resident, said he was looking forward to his new position. “I’m ready to jump right in,” he said. “I know there is a backlog. But I think I bring a lot to the table.”

Mr. Gilbride said the village board decided to act in large part because members were concerned about the growing backlog of building permit applications, a backlog, he added, that was already posing a problem when Mr. Platt resigned last summer.

At their October 14 meeting, board members expressed surprise that Building Department revenue had declined for the year to date, despite signs of ongoing construction work in nearly every village neighborhood.

Mr. Gilbride said after that meeting, he drove around the village and noticed that many projects were proceeding without posted building permits.

With the Watchcase condominiums under construction in the old Bulova building, Barons Cove being redeveloped and the Harbor’s Edge condominiums nearing completion, not to mention dozens of other smaller projects scattered throughout the village, Mr. Gilbride said the time to bolster the department was now.

“Before things got too out of hand, we decided to act,” Mr. Gilbride said. “Hopefully, we can now break through this backlog.”

Mr. Gilbride added that the village is looking for ways to streamline the permit process, so building permits for simple projects can be issued more quickly. “If all the paperwork is in and it doesn’t need a board approval, it shouldn’t sit 17, 18 down on the pile before it is issued,” he said.

Mr. Preiato will be paid $75,000 in his new position. The mayor said Mr. Escalante is being paid approximately $42,500 in large part because he has less experience. Mr. Escalante is a probationary employee until December.

Mr. Gilbride, who prides himself on his tight budget practices, said the increase in spending was justified. “At the end of the day, in all honesty, Tim Platt was a very valuable guy,” the mayor said. “We probably weren’t paying him what he was worth.”

Mr. Gilbride met with East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell on Monday to discuss the matter.

Mr. Cantwell said the town is shorthanded in its own building department but would work quickly to replace Mr. Preiato.

“The building department is a very busy office,” Mr. Cantwell said, “a very busy operation, and we are going to do everything we can to keep it operating effectively.”

Mr. Preiato has served as the town’s provisional chief building inspector since late 2013. A provisional appointment is made when there is no updated Civil Service list of qualified candidates available, Mr. Cantwell said.

With Mr. Preiato leaving the town in just two weeks, the town will be down to one building inspector, Dan Casey. Another building inspector, Robert Fisher, is currently serving a work-related suspension.

Mr. Cantwell said East Hampton has already hired one retired building inspector to work on a part-time basis. He said the board would likely appoint two new full-time inspectors when it meets on November 6. It is also considering hiring another part-time inspector, he added.

The village board made the appointment at a special meeting on Tuesday morning. The village Building Department was closed afterward for a staff meeting.


Great Street Honored

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Crowds on Main Street during HarborFest 2013 on Sunday, 9/8/13

By Stephen J. Kotz

Deborah Alaimo Lawlor, a member of the American Planning Association, the organization that named Sag Harbor’s Main Street one of the 10 “Great Streets in America” earlier this month, presented a proclamation to that effect to the Sag Harbor Village Board on Tuesday.

Ms. Lawlor praised the village for protecting its historic heritage and nurturing the arts while maintaining the feel of a friendly small town.

“Coming to Sag Harbor brings back some fond memories,” said Ms. Lawlor, a New Jersey resident who said she last visited the area about 30 years ago. “Quaint, that’s the picture that remained in my head about Sag Harbor after all this time.”

“This award is an accomplishment of many people who we can’t thank enough,” said Mayor Brian Gilbride, who asked that representatives of the village’s various regulatory boards and its environmental consultants stand at the front of the meeting room for the presentation of the proclamation.

Ms. Lawlor said the village had been recommended for the honor by a professional planner who was a regular visitor to the village.

She said the village is still eligible for a “people’s choice award,” which will be given to the community receiving the most votes at its website, www.planning.org, by the end of the month of October.

Waterfront Park

Landscape architect Ed Hollander, who unveiled the latest sketches for Cove Park, a waterfront park that would be developed under the shadow of the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, at a special board meeting last week, presented them again to the larger audience that typically attends the board’s monthly meetings.

“It’s definitely not attractive, it’s definitely not of great use to the community,” he said of the proposed site of the park, behind the 7-Eleven convenience store and along the waterfront on the southwest side of the bridge.

Mr. Hollander said the park would open up an overlooked portion of the village’s waterfront to the community and would help tie the rest of the waterfront, from the docks along West Water Street, to Long Wharf and Marine Park, together. He added that it would be developed in an environmentally friendly way with native plant species and as many recycled materials, including plants, as possible.

“The next step is how do we bring this to fruition?” asked Mr. Hollander.

But that was a question the board, which did not discuss the project further, was not prepared to answer on Tuesday.

Later in the meeting, during a public comment period, Jeff Peters, a member of the Harbor Committee, thanked that committee’s former chairman Bruce Tait for being an early advocate of the waterfront park.