Tag Archive | "sag harbor village"

School and Village at Odds Over Who is Responsible for Traffic Safety at Pierson

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Concerned community members watched Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols present possible solutions Tuesday evening.

Concerned community members watched Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols present possible solutions Tuesday evening. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Some 20 concerned parents and traffic calming proponents joined village officials and Police Chief Tom Fabiano in a traffic safety workshop hosted by the Sag Harbor Board of Education Tuesday night.

The school board asked village officials and community members to join it in a discussion “to collaboratively address traffic safety and congestion in and around the school parking lots and campus,” according to a release sent by district clerk Mary Adamczyk.

But once the meeting began, school officials said the discussion would focus solely on how to best alleviate the safety concerns surrounding pick-up and drop-off at Pierson Middle/High School, which parents and board members alike said was dangerous.

Officials from the school and the village, as well as several community members who attended, proposed many ideas, both as quick fixes and long-term solutions, but not one measure was implemented or even agreed on by the end of the two-hour meeting.

Calling the situation “a bit of a mess,” Pierson Principal Jeff Nichols said the problem occurs between about 7:12 and 7:28 a.m. and again at the end of the day, from roughly 2:25 to 2:40 p.m.

Mr. Nichols proposed a few ways he thinks the village could aid the school district in addressing the problem. The first would be to make Division Street a one-way northbound street for 15 or 20 minutes in the morning and again for 15 or 20 minutes in the afternoon to reduce the flow of traffic. The second would be for the village to provide “some sort of crossing guard” to help direct traffic during those times.

“My understanding is that’s problematic for budget reasons,” Mr. Nichols said. “So, I don’t want to put anybody on the spot with regard to that. I do think that when you go to most schools, there is a crossing guard at the facility.”

There is a village-appointed crossing guard at the Sag Harbor Elementary School during pick-up and drop-off times.

“When we work with the village and we work with the community,” said Dr. Bonuso, interim superintendent, “there’s a synergy and there are more powerful possibilities. We very much want to hear from the village. Have you heard of some of these issues?”

“Since our last meeting we had a few weeks ago,” replied Chief Tom Fabiano, “I believe we discussed the possibility of making Division Street one-way. I thought I was pretty clear about the fact that I didn’t see that as an option.”

The village has an unofficial ban on creating any more one-way streets, Trustee Ed Deyermond said, adding that recent attempts, such as on Elizabeth Street and Clinton Street, are “not working.”

“What you’re asking for is for the village to cede liability to the school for that street,” he said. “That’s not going to happen.”

The crossing guard option seemed more feasible.

School board member Sandi Kruel said as a school district, the fact there is not a school crossing guard on the property when kids are in school “to me is unacceptable.”

“If we can figure out in our budget to rearrange, then I think that’s the least you guys could do to look at your budget,” she said to Chief Fabiano.

Chief Fabiano said he has been discussing the possibility with elementary school crossing guard Kathy Carlozzi of having her aiding Pierson occasionally. Ms.  Carlozzi also attended Tuesday’s meeting.

“You can’t just put one person out there,” Chief Fabiano said, “you can’t put Kathy out there. You need a couple people out there to monitor this.”

The chief said he has asked “time and time again” for the school district to have extra personnel to monitor drop-off and pick-up, “but does it happen? No.”

School security guard John Ali is currently the only person officially manning drop-off and pick-up, although Mr. Nichols said he steps in during  warmer weather and Chief Fabiano said he helps out when he can.

“Would a crossing guard help there? Possibly. I would have to discuss it with the board next September,” Chief Fabiano said.

Mr. Deyermond said crossing guards “in this particular fiscal budget year are problematic. I don’t see us adding any crossing guards.”

The village officials in attendance agreed that while there are things the village could do, the school should also enact measures to alleviate the congestion.

“I’ve been saying this for the past 14 years that I’ve been chief. Why can’t we have a drop-off for cars on one side and the buses on the other side?” Chief Fabiano asked, referring to the parking lots at Jermain Avenue and Division Street.

“We also brought up the idea of the buses and here’s where the parents have to step in,” he added. “We’re looking at buses and they’re 75 percent empty, according to your numbers. To me, that’s a big issue. We’re spending a lot of money on buses and no one’s riding them. everyone’s dropping kids off at school.”

“This is a generic problem in a lot of schools,” Trustee Robby Stein said of the congestion, adding, “You have to get more kids on the school buses.”

On Wednesday, school business administrator John O’Keefe said, “Bus utilization varies depending on the time of year, weather, etc., but typically runs 30 to 45 percent for the five primary routes.”

Mr. Deyermond said if the entrances at the Montauk Avenue parking lot behind the school and the Jermain Avenue parking lot on its northern side were open longer for students to use and the school publicized that those entrances should be used, some of the traffic could be redirected from Division Street. Several members of the audience nodded in agreement.

“I would like to see what the school is going to do and what Larry [Salvesen, district architect] can do with the possibility of shifting all this congestion from one spot,” Chief Fabiano said. “To say, hey we designed the school and we don’t have place for drop-off…I don’t think it’s too fair to the village to say, ‘You just make it a one-way.’ That’s not the answer.”

“It is our responsibility, yes, but it’s also the responsibility of the school to start doing something,” he said.

“With a little bit of luck, we can get that crossing guard out there relatively soon, I think,” said Dr. Bonuso. “And when I say soon, I don’t mean next week or necessarily next month.”

The school board agreed to discuss the issue further to see whether there were immediate steps that could be taken. It will discuss the plans for the new parking lots at Pierson at its next regular meeting on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Pierson library.

Before Cuts, Sag Harbor Village Mulls 7 Percent Increase in Draft 2014-15 Budget

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees received a draft budget for 2014-15 at its first budget work session on February 19, with department heads requesting an overall 7-percent spending increase over last year. On Tuesday, Mayor Brian Gilbride said he would like to see the spending increase reduced to less than 1.48 percent before the budget is adopted in order to ensure it falls below a state-mandated 2-percent property tax levy cap.

With all department wish lists factored into the first draft, the 2014-15 budget proposed $8.84 million in spending, an increase of $580,170 over the $8.78 million budget adopted last year.

One of the biggest increases proposed would be for the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps, which is requesting $80,942 for an ambulance administrator, which Mayor Gilbride said Tuesday would essentially be a paid first responder position for the currently all-volunteer emergency service provider. Mayor Gilbride said he was not opposed to the concept, particularly given the demographics of Sag Harbor.

“These guys are doing a lot of runs, there is a lot going on and their calls are just increasing,” he said. “I would say there is a willingness on my part to make this happen. We have an older population now.”

There is also an ambulance line item for $45,724 for radio dispatch services. In total, the ambulance budget is proposed to increase from $223,725 to $387,484, a 51-percent increase in spending.

The Sag Harbor Fire Department’s budget also shows a spending increase of $120,173, which is 30 percent over last year. The majority of that is $70,000 the department is paying back to the village’s general fund to cover the cost of replacing 17 of the department’s 60 air packs. An additional $7,000 is requested for 2014-15 to be placed in an air pack reserve account to cover the cost of replacing that equipment in the future. Workers’ compensation and disability insurance is also expected to increase, by $8,455, and the department is also requesting an additional $10,000 for equipment over last year’s approved $30,000 earmark for equipment.

Village treasurer Eileen Tuohy said that expenses related to the fire department and ambulance corps are not funded solely by the village, but throughout the fire district which includes unincorporated portions of East Hampton, Noyac, Bay Point and North Haven Village.

The Sag Harbor Village Police Department’s budget requests  an additional $109,915 in full-time personnel expenses, although the department’s part-time personnel budget would decline by $800 from the 2013-14 budget. Last year, $51,400 was approved for part-time personnel with $28,035 spent to date in a budget that must see the department through June.

An increase of $2,000 to $5,000 is also projected for false arrest insurance, and radio dispatch service expenses are expected to climb from $49,348 to $51,321.

The village’s Harbors and Docks department is requesting a $10,000, or 5-percent, increase over its 2013-14 budget of $220,700, primarily to increase part-time personnel and also to cover the cost of charge card fees. The highway department has asked for a 7-percent increase, from $503,955 to $537,486. That includes an increase of $14,181 for full-time personnel, $10,000 for part-time personnel, and an additional $10,000 for snow removal supplies.

During last Wednesday’s meeting, Mayor Gilbride said he would like to see drainage improvements, in particular catch basins for drainage improvements considered a priority for 2014-15. He added that he would like to see a septic system rebate program considered for waterfront homes in Sag Harbor, similar to a successful initiative launched in Southampton Town.

“Other than that I will start to work on this tonight and try and get it closer to a 1 percent increase,” he said. “And that is that. It is going to mean moving some money around the budget.”

On Tuesday, he added making improvements and repairs to Long Wharf.

“And I try to get an elevator in this building [the Municipal Building] year after year,” he added.

“But at the next meeting, I think we are going to have a clearer picture,” said Mayor Gilbride, adding he plans to sit down with department heads over the course of the next week.

The next budget work session will be held on Wednesday, March 5, at 4 p.m.

Transparency Time

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While it has been a concept bantered about since last year’s school board election season kicked off, the idea of the Sag Harbor School District joining the ranks of East Hampton and Southampton and offering recordings of its public meetings has formally been before the school board for six months now.

Merely creating recordings of public board of education meetings would be a small token to a community that in the last year has called for more transparency and openness from this board. That a debate is still ongoing, including outstanding legal questions, is inexcusable given the amount of time that has passed since this issue was first raised.

The time for action is now. The public is not asking for access to student records or personnel files—it is simply asking for access to public meetings covering the business of a publicly-funded school district for those who are unable to pay a babysitter, part with their children after work, or are simply too busy to make a Monday night meeting.

Frankly, it is not a lot to ask for. And it is certainly not unchartered waters. Both East Hampton and Southampton towns provide video recordings of their meetings to the public, via their own websites and through public access television. School board meetings are available through public access in both East Hampton and Southampton. While the Village of Sag Harbor does not provide video broadcasts of its numerous public meetings, it does have audio recordings, which are—of course—available to any resident willing to fill out a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request.

Assuming it agreed to videotape its meetings, the school district would need to provide access to its video library in some fashion, whether through a public access channel like LTV (which also has video on demand services so residents can access any programming, at any time), SEA-TV or on their own website. But providing video access would eliminate the need for 99 percent of all FOIA requests and would also ensure an educated school community when it comes to board of education issues.

There is no need to “train” board members for their on-camera appearances, as was discussed at Monday’s meeting. In fact, there is no need to change anything about the board’s meetings. They are public now—and under state law, meetings should include discussions about almost everything revolving around the business of running the school district.

We have said it before, we will say it again—there is little that can or should be discussed behind closed doors. That videotaping opens up an opportunity for more members of the public to engage with the school district is only a positive.

It is more than a worthy investment. The board is currently discussing a budget for the 2014-2015 school year. It hosted a work session looking at technology in the school district on Monday before its regular session. That budget conversation should have included this initiative.

The tentative budget currently includes $15,500 in funding for “public information,” largely to pay for the district’s consultant agreement with Syntax Communications, a public relations firm in Bohemia the school began contracting with last year as it prepared for its $8.9 million bond referendum. With no bond referendum on the table, it begs the question of whether  some of that money might be better spent on other public information initiatives outside of public relations. Perhaps, for example, giving all district residents access to the most basic information concerning our school district: what is discussed at our school board meetings.


Sag Harbor’s Snowy Sidewalks Debated

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By Kathryn G. Menu

So far in 2014, Sag Harbor has recorded 33 inches of snowfall, with much of the most recent precipitation frozen in icy mounds on village sidewalks and streets as temperatures have refused to budge above freezing since February 5.

For Nada Barry, owner of the Wharf Shop on Main Street and a decades-long fixture at Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meetings, the constant snowfall is not her concern, but making sure sidewalks are kept clean in the traditionally pedestrian friendly village is.

During Tuesday night’s monthly village board meeting, Ms. Barry approached trustees for the second time this year to call on the village to enforce its own laws and begin ticketing residents and businesses that do not comply with the village code and shovel the village-owned sidewalks in front of their properties.

“Nothing is going to happen until people are fined,” said Ms. Barry. “It is the only way you are going to get this place cleaned up.”

According to Trustee Kevin Duchemin, the liaison for code enforcement in the village, nine summonses were issued after the last two snowfalls in early February. However, for Ms. Barry, that simply does not go far enough.

According to the Sag Harbor Village code, it is not lawful for “any owner or occupant of land or premises adjacent to a sidewalk” to leave any snow or ice on the sidewalk longer than 24 hours after a storm has passed or ice has formed. Anyone in violation of that section of code, upon conviction, is subject to a fine not to exceed $250 or imprisonment for not more than 15 days, or both, for each and every violation issued by code enforcement.

However, as Mayor Brian Gilbride admitted at last month’s village board meeting, when quizzed by Ms. Barry, the village had not cited anyone following the January 2 storm. On Tuesday night, Ms. Barry called the nine citations “a start” and called on the village to become more proactive in enforcing its own laws. She suggested hiring someone to do the job and added that enforcing this section of the code could prove financially beneficial to the village.

“Because we cannot go on living this way,” said Ms. Barry. “It is so dangerous. So please take some action before next year.”

According to Mayor Gilbride and Trustee Duchemin, the nine summonses issued were in downtown Sag Harbor. Ms. Barry said sidewalks on the outskirts of the business district and on residential streets are also not being cleared and that those residents should also face fines.

“It’s just out of control and you are all aware of it,” she said.

Resident and Harbor Committee member Jeff Peters agreed.

Mr. Peters suggested a part-time employee could be hired in code enforcement if the manpower is currently not sufficient. He added that a village-wide letter could go out informing all residents of the code requirements as a warning. Ultimately, Mr. Peters wondered why the village itself could not take on the responsibility of plowing the sidewalks.

Mayor Gilbride said the village’s insurance company said it would be a liability issue if the public works department became responsible for plowing them.

“I think this storm it was a lot better,” he said. “But can it get better? Yes.”

Howard Street resident Mia Grosjean wondered if residents were responsible for snow pushed onto sidewalks by snowplows.

“You have to ask Nada,” joked Mayor Gilbride.

The answer was yes.

The village board passed a resolution Tuesday night authorizing Police Chief Tom Fabiano to hire Travis H. Chornoma as a part-time police officer at a rate of $23 per hour.

“Is this to replace Hughie,” asked Trustee Ken O’Donnell referring to former village police officer Hugh Caulfield, who retired from the department last year leaving nine officers and the chief on full-time staff.

“No, it is not,” said Chief Fabiano. “But if it gets approved I would like to request another meeting with everyone. I need a 10th man and I can’t wait until the summer to replace Hughie.”

While the resolution was passed, no meeting with Chief Fabiano was scheduled to discuss the future of the department and outside of Mayor Gilbride the remainder of the village board was silent on the subject.

“I have been asking for a meeting since June,” said the chief.

In other news, Sloan Schaeffer—the owner of the former Sag Harbor United Methodist Church building on Madison Street—will petition the board to hook up that property to the village wastewater treatment plant. Mr. Schaeffer is in the midst of re-developing the property for use as his private residence. On Tuesday night, his attorney Dennis Downes approached the board to see if it would consider the idea.

In order to hook up to the wastewater treatment plant, the system’s pipe would need to be extended down Madison Street roughly 100 feet, said Mr. Downes. Two additional properties would have to hook up to the plant as well, and Mr. Schaeffer has offered to pay for the extension of the line as well as the hook-up for each home. The property owners would be responsible for annual village water bills.

Board members said they were amenable to the idea as long as affected neighbors supported the plan.

Sag Harbor ZBA Work Session on Harbor Heights Project Rescheduled for January 16

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A Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) work session, originally scheduled for Friday, January 10 at 2 p.m. has been rescheduled for Thursday, January 16 at 2 p.m.

The work session will specifically cover the variance application of John Leonard, who is asking the ZBA for three variances to redevelop the Harbor Heights Service Station on Route 114 in Sag Harbor.

The application has been before the village boards for three years and has been met with substantial opposition, including from hundreds of residents who have filed letters of protest with the ZBA and the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board during the course of the review.

The Sag Harbor ZBA must determine whether or not it will grant Leonard’s variances by its Tuesday, January 21 meeting, which will begin with a work session at 6 p.m.

Bridgehampton School Capital Improvement Vote Next Tuesday

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In need of new fire escapes and other major repairs, the Bridgehampton School District will host a special vote January 14 from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the middle school building 4 where the community will weigh in on spending $827,000 in capital reserve funds for improvement projects within the district.

Last March, Bridgehampton voters approved the establishment of a five-year capital plan to fund major improvements and repairs throughout the school. The board of education (BOE) funded the capital plan with $827,000 in June. Now district voters must voice their support of actually spending that reserve money.

The largest spending priorities include replacing the gymnasium floor and skylights and installing new fire escapes. Smaller capital projects, including covering the cost of a new generator, new playground equipment, resurfacing the outdoor basketball court, fixing leaks in the electrical room and replacing emergency lighting in several buildings, would also be covered by the $827,000 in funding. While funding the capital reserve account has already been approved, if the actual spending is approved by majority vote, the district hopes to complete the projects over the summer of 2014 so as not to interfere with school instruction.


In Sag Harbor, A Priority of Public Projects for 2014

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By Kathryn G. Menu

In its last meeting for 2013, the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees met in special session Thursday afternoon to talk about a list of village projects that are coming into focus for 2014.

Repairs to Long Wharf, upgrading the Municipal Building with an elevator that would allow access to the long-vacant third and fourth floors of that Main Street building, and constructing a helipad at Havens Beach for emergency service use were three projects village board members debated Thursday.

At the close of the session, board members passed a resolution to get estimates on the cost of all three projects.

While board members agreed all three projects were worth looking at, at the start of the session, with just Mayor Brian Gilbride, Trustee Ken O’Donnell and Trustee Robby Stein in attendance, there was division on how a project like Long Wharf — a project that likely comes with a hefty price tag — should be funded.

“My feeling is we should bond it and do it all at once,” said O’Donnell.

Stein agreed, noting that village treasurer Eileen Tuohy has advised trustees interest rates are historically low, making it desirable to bond for a project of this size.

And sizable it will likely be.

While the village board will now await an updated survey detailing the repair and maintenance needs of Long Wharf, it has been several years since anything outside of annual maintenance performed by village crews has been completed on the aging facility.

In 2010, part of the impetus for Suffolk County to look to Sag Harbor Village as a means of ridding itself of ownership of Long Wharf was a report from the Suffolk County Department of Public Works, outlining over $600,000 in immediate repairs necessary to keep the wharf in working order. While the transfer of Long Wharf to Sag Harbor Village — an over two-year process — did go through, neither the county nor the village ever completed that list of repairs.

In March of this year, village engineer Paul Grosser compiled a schedule of repairs over a 10-year period. The village board discussed funding those repairs — at a total cost of $1 million — with $100,000 annually earmarked annually. Last month, Tuohy suggested it might be fiscally prudent to consider bonding instead.

Gilbride, who has staunchly opposed bonding for the repairs, noted the reserve repair fund has $1.2 million and while the village has paid for the Havens Beach remediation, it is expecting close to $300,000 back from the county and the state for that water quality project.

“I think we have to get a closer handle on what Long Wharf needs,” said Gilbride.

Stein agreed.

“Once we know about the cost, then we should talk about how to pay for it,” he said. “I am not so worried about bonding. I just don’t want to do piecemeal for this project.”

A longtime goal of Gilbride has been to see the village open up the third and fourth floors of the Municipal Building through the construction of an elevator. The village currently has a lift, which provides access from the first to the second floor including the meeting room, building department and justice court for the disabled. However, noted Gilbride, that lift has begun to falter and rather than replace it, he would like the board to consider installing an elevator that would enable the village to make use of the third floor for office space and the fourth floor for storage.

“It’s a key element to getting into the third floor and moving the building department up there,” he said, noting making the fourth floor usable in terms of office space is a larger — and pricier — challenge than he would like to take on this coming year.

According to Gilbride, installing an elevator would cost the village about $165,000.

A 2012 report detailing the cost of Municipal Building repairs and upgrades, including the elevator, estimated $1.8 million in funding would be necessary, which would include sprinkler system for the third floor and the extension of fire escapes to all floors in the building.

On Thursday, the board agreed to look into the cost of just installing the elevator, sprinkler system, and fire escapes — all necessary if the village wants to legally do business on the third floor.

The board also signed off, with little debate, on having an estimate drawn up for the creation of a helipad on Havens Beach. The helipad would specifically be for emergency service providers to use in the instance where a medevac is required out of Sag Harbor.

The next Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for January 14 at 6 p.m.

John Jermain Memorial Library Eyes Cultural District

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By Kathryn G. Menu

The John Jermain Memorial Library has its eye on a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant for creative placemaking that could lead to the creation of cultural district in the village. The idea would be to connect a group of not-for-profit entities that would be charged with promoting the arts and culture that makes Sag Harbor a special place.

According to Eric Cohen, the library’s technology and multi-media coordinator who is spearheading this initiative, the library intends to apply for the grant in 2014. In order to be successful, the library – which intends to be the lead agent in the application process – needs the support of the Village of Sag Harbor, which must partner with JJML in this endeavor.

During Tuesday night’s Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees meeting, Cohen gave a presentation on the grant proposal. He said the library will make formal application to the village later next year as it moves closer to filing its request with the NEA.

While the proposal is still in the conceptual phase and something Cohen said village residents will be asked to weigh in on in a substantive way, at its core is the creation of a Sag Harbor Village Cultural District encompassing geography around five entities – Canio’s Books, JJML, the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum, the Sag Harbor Custom House and the Sag Harbor Historical Society.

“The point of the cultural district is an acknowledgement of what already exists in Sag Harbor,” said Cohen Tuesday night. “It is also a mechanism for Sag Harbor’s cultural institutions to work together for the benefit of ourselves and community.”

Cohen said ultimately the idea is to strengthen the community and make it a more desirable place to live, but also the district would serve as an economic engine, attracting more visitors to Sag Harbor specifically because of its arts and culture.

While ideas have yet to be solidified, Cohen said over the course of the next year, joint programming between these not-for-profit organizations will be devised as a first step towards making the cultural district a reality.

The NEA grant, which JJML Director Catherine Creedon discovered while looking at different grant opportunities for the library, is for creative placemaking – a personal passion of Cohen’s.

According to the NEA, in creative placemaking “partners from public, private, nonprofit, and community sectors strategically shape the physical and social character of a neighborhood, town, tribe, city or region and arts and cultural activities. Creative placemaking animates public and private spaces, rejuvenates structures and streetscapes, improves local business viability and public safety, and brings diverse people together to celebrate, inspire and be inspired.”

Grant funding ranges from $25,000 to $200,0000, depending on the project. Cohen said projects within the grant could be as simple as creating a needed dance studio space or sponsoring a series of outdoor art exhibits. Creating a cultural district is also one of the initiatives supported by the grant.

“We want the community to help us plan this together,” said Cohen.

Police Debate Continues

While the Village of Sag Harbor and the Sag Harbor Police Benevolent Association (PBA) have made little headway in negotiations for a new police contract, on Tuesday night resident Robert Turner urged the board to find some way to agree to a contract with the PBA and discouraged any discussion about using an outside agency to police Sag Harbor Village.

Turner said one of the reasons he and his wife moved to Sag Harbor was because it had everything they were looking for in a village — including a local police force.

He also suggested that figures detailing salaries of officers and the original 4.5 percent request for a salary increase made by the PBA did not go far enough in showing residents what the actual impact on their taxes would be if that contract was approved.

“What is the assessed value cost in this contract as opposed to the old contract,” he asked.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said the last contract was for five years and gave officers over that period a 26 percent increase in pay, with even larger increases for night differentials and longevity.

According to Mayor Gilbride, he expects the contract dispute will likely move to binding arbitration.

In other village news, the board accepted the formal resignation of Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals Chairwoman Gayle Pickering, with regrets, and appointed board member Anton Hagen as the board’s new chairman effective immediately.

The board also accepted the resignation of Sag Harbor Village Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board member Michael Mensch.

In a letter to the village board, Mensch cited personal and professional reasons for his resignation.

“I have enjoyed the position and my fellow members immensely, and hope in the future I can be recommended again,” said Mensch.

Sag Harbor Planning Board Looks at 125 Main Street, Provisions & Harbor Heights

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By Kathryn G. Menu

It has been almost three years since local real estate developer James Giorgio proposed to raise and rebuild the historic commercial property at 125 Main Street in Sag Harbor. Now, with a public hearing on the project scheduled for next month, it appears an end and an approval are finally within site.

On Tuesday, October 23 the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board heard a presentation on the project from Giorgio’s architect, Chuck Thomas.

The project involves removing two additions off the rear of the building facing Church Street, lifting the remainder of the building and putting a new foundation under it. The building, constructed sometime in the 1750s, has basically no foundation to speak of and is sitting in dirt. After the new foundation is installed, Thomas said the plan is to reframe whatever is necessary within the historic structure and restore the building, removing aluminum siding and replacing it with wood, restoring the windows and building a new, wood roof.

The additions which would be removed in the beginning of the process would be rebuilt in kind, added Thomas.

The building will continue to host a retail use on the first floor, with an apartment on the second floor.

“We are going to make it look like it should look,” said Thomas.

The project has tentatively received two variances from the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA). One allows landscaping of 16.62 percent of the property as opposed to the 20 percent required under village code and the other allows the inclusion of eight parking spaces where nine are required in the code.

The ZBA, however, was not amenable to allowing Giorgio to construct the second floor apartment at just 564 square-feet where a minimum of 800 square-feet is required. On Tuesday, Thomas said the apartment would meet code.

Thomas said he hoped to get started on construction this winter. A public hearing on the project will be held at the board’s November 27 meeting.


   Accessory Apartment Approved

On Tuesday night, Juan Castro became the third Sag Harbor resident approved for an accessory apartment since the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees first adopted a law in 2009 allowing a maximum of 50 residents to legalize apartments within their primary residences.

Apartments must meet building and fire codes and the Suffolk County Health Department must also sign off on the apartment, meaning applicants must show they have an adequate septic system to handle the increase in density.

The 650 square-foot apartment is located in the bottom floor of Castro’s Brandywine Drive residence.

   Provisions Expansion Stalls

While Provisions Natural Foods Market & Organic Café has already received planning board approval to expand partially into the adjacent space most recently used by the Style bar, it has approval to do so sans approximately 200 square-feet of the Style bar space. If Provisions uses that space it will officially expand beyond 3,000 square-feet, which under the village code triggers the requirement for a market research study on the necessity of expanding the store as well as consideration of providing some kind of affordable housing relief.

In order to avoid those requirements, Provisions’ attorney Dennis Downes secured the company approval for an expansion, walling off that 200-square-foot space. But after gaining planning board approval, Downes approached the Sag Harbor Village Zoning Board of Appeals for relief from the market study, which he estimates will cost $10,000, and the affordable housing provision, which would allow Provisions to expand into the full 777 square-foot space.

While the ZBA was amenable to the idea in September, this month Sag Harbor Village Attorney Denise Schoen said she does not believe the ZBA has a right under the village code to offer that kind of relief. Schoen said case law permits the ZBA to grant area variances — those that deal with physical space like a setback — but not variances for other requirements for a special permit.

Downes is reviewing that case law and the matter will be revisited at the ZBA’s November 20 meeting.

Lastly, John Leonard’s proposal to expand the Harbor Heights Service Station to include a convenience store was formally given a negative declaration under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). That proposal will now move into the hands of the ZBA, which will ultimately decide the fate of the project, ruling on close to half a dozen variances including one that will allow Leonard to construct a store almost twice the size of what is allowed under the village code.

That proposal will also be discussed at the ZBA’s November 20 meeting.


West Water Street Developers File for Chapter 11 on the Defunct Condo Property

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It has been over three years since East End Development, LLC — the team of developers behind the now defunct condominium project at 21 West Water Street — have paid workers to complete any work at the 19-unit building.

It has sat, more than half way finished for years, a large box of tiles on one of the building’s balconies unmoved, slowly disintegrating to literal dust.

Last week, the future of that project was dealt another blow.

On October 12, East End Development, LLC filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in United States Eastern District Bankruptcy Court. Emil Talel is listed as the managing member of the LLC, with Michael Maiden and Terry Soderberg also listed as co-debtors in the filing.

According to a copy of the filing, East End Ventures debt associated with the 21 West Water Street property is estimated at $35,344,415.89. The filing states that East End Ventures assets include the half finished 21 West Water Street condominium building, which they value at $27,300,000.

The only other asset listed in East End Ventures documentation is $206.53 in a JP Morgan Chase Bank account.

The 1, 3 and 5 Ferry Road parcel, which the same developers unsuccessfully attempted to develop into condos under East End Ventures LLC — a case that resulted in a lawsuit between the firm and the Village of Sag Harbor — is not listed as one of the company’s assets as it was managed under its own limited liability corporation.

Twenty-six mechanics’ liens are listed against the 21 West Water Street property from creditors holding secured claims in the bankruptcy case totaling $34,653,840.52 with an additional $7,353,840.52 in unsecured claims made by the same companies.

The largest mechanic’s lien filed against the property is by the Longview Ultra Construction Loan Fund through Amalgamated Bank — East End Venture’s loan provider. They have filed a $30,484,011 lien on their own.

On Tuesday afternoon, a representative from Amalgamated Bank declined to comment on the Chapter 11 filing.

Several local companies have also been impacted by the project. Bridgehampton Steel & Welding has filed a $76,092 mechanic’s lien, Pristine Pool Construction Corp. has filed a $71,703 mechanic’s lien against the project, Southampton Brick & Tile has filed a $94,340 lien, Southampton-based Squire, Pierson & Sons, Inc. has a $94,239.47 lien and Water Mill Building Supply, Inc. has a lien of $213,949.

Unknown claims may be made from the Internal Revenue Service, the New York State Department of Finance and the New York City Department of Finance, according to the filing.

“Unsecured” and “non-priority claims” amount to $690,575.17, including $11,060 owed to local Sag Harbor attorney Dennis Downes — the attorney who helped secure approval for East End Development for the 21 West Water condominium project. An additional $20,076 is owed to Bridgehampton architect Kathryn Fee, $277,139.94 is owed to RLW4 Construction out of Southampton, and even the Village of Sag Harbor is owed $523.75.

As East End Ventures has filed for Chapter 11, not Chapter 7, it is attempting to reorganize its debt rather than liquidate, although under bankruptcy law Chapter 11 proceedings can move to Chapter 7 proceedings.

However, on Tuesday, Talel remained optimistic that despite the years long delay in getting the project off the ground that it would in fact move forward some time this winter, in part, because East End Development filed for Chapter 11.

“We will settle with everyone involved and negotiate to the best of our abilities,” said Talel. “This will allow us to go back to construction as quickly as possible. Nothing has changed and the project will be completed in an expeditious way.”

The 21 West Water Street condominium project was originally proposed in 2006 and was approved in 2008, with residents and village boards alike largely supporting the project, in large part because the condos would take the place of a nightclub and restaurant just on the edge of a residential district.

The project included 19 condos and a rooftop swimming pool.

While they were gaining its final approvals for 21 West Water Street, Talel and Maiden proposed a condo project at 1, 3, and 5 Ferry Road, under the East End Ventures corporation.

While failing to find support for a number of different versions of that project, in 2009 the village’s zoning code changed, drastically reducing the number of condominium units allowed on the Ferry Road parcel and requiring affordable housing be worked into the project.

In September of that year, Talel and East End Ventures filed a $30 million damages suit against the village as well as an Article 78 suit, claiming they were led to believe the project would be exempt from the new code, similar to the approved condominium project at the former Bulova Watchcase Factory.

While both suits would ultimately be dismissed in 2011, as of fall 2009 workers were already walking off the job at 21 West Water Street for non-payment and by July of 2010 there were over $3 million in liens recorded with the Suffolk County Clerk’s office against the property.

According to the Chapter 11 filing completed earlier this month, Amalgamated Bank has already begun foreclosure proceedings against East End Development, which is still in court.

For Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride, after three and a half years of watching the 21 West Water Street building fall further and further into decline, he said he was not optimistic about the project’s future. But at the end of the day he hopes someone resurrects the project to protect that section of the village from further blight.

“There is not a day I walk into Schiavoni’s that someone doesn’t ask me about this,” said Gilbride.