Tag Archive | "Sagaponack"

Southampton Town Eager to Move Forward with Beach Nourishment Plan

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By Tessa Raebeck; Photography by Hannah Thomas

Two weeks ago, the largest hurricane in living memory roared through the New York region, wiping out coastal dune systems on this end of Long Island and entire neighborhoods on the other.

As a result, Southampton town officials held a special work session last Thursday to revisit a proposed beach re-nourishment project in the Bridgehampton and Sagaponack erosion control districts.

The districts were authorized by the town board back in 2010 as part of a comprehensive plan to combat beach erosion on the south shore. The project aims to use beach nourishment to preserve a six-mile stretch of beachfront property which includes about 190 homes and five public properties.

But protection doesn’t come cheap. The proposed restoration is expected to cost several million dollars (much of it paid by homeowners themselves through creation of a new tax district) and it has been the subject of five public hearings over the past two years. Discussions stalled after several homeowners requested exemption from the proposed project, citing their opposition to paying the special taxes that would have resulted from approval of this plan.

According to Jennifer Garvey, an aide to Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, the town is working with State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. on legislation to provide opposing property owners with tax relief. Garvey said the town board is prepared to move forward with the project, but has been waiting until the legislation passed — expected to be January 2014 at the earliest — to hold the vote on it.

But in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, significant erosion was reported by homeowners, so the town is attempting to speed up the restoration process.

“These homeowners have spent substantial money doing these temporary fixes [following the storm],” Supervisor Throne-Holst explained, “and for that reason, they are all the more eager to see us move forward with the proposed project, which is a long term project to shore up our beaches.”

On Thursday, coastal erosion scientist Dr. Timothy Kana, founder and president of Coastal Science & Engineering in Columbia, S.C., addressed the effects of Hurricane Sandy on his comprehensive, 10 year plan for restoring and preserving the districts. The proposed project would add 2,127,500 cubic yards of sand to the shoreline.

Kana’s initial report outlined three restorative scenarios — low, middle, and upper — to determine how much sand would need to be placed on the beach. The Sagaponack Beach Erosion Control District elected the upper-level scenario, which requires the most sand and thus the highest expense.

Initially, the Bridgehampton Beach Erosion Control District chose the mid-level scenario. Following the effects of Hurricane Sandy, however, Bridgehampton has elected to increase the amount of sand to an upper-level scenario, in turn increasing the project’s projected total cost of $24 million by about $1.3 million.

Members of the town board met with Kana and other environmental specialists to discuss the storm’s impact on the original plans and proposed increasing the project’s maximum tax line.

“We now have a firsthand look at what happens and can happen after a storm like this,” Throne-Holst told the audience.

She also emphasized the economic importance of beaches as a foundation of the town’s tax base.

“[The homeowners] have asked us to move this forward,” she said, “I personally think we need to move it forward, too.”

Southampton Town Chief Environmental Analyst Marty Shea outlined the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the coastal districts. Shea called the damage very severe, citing the narrow width of the beach in many areas. According to Shea, homeowners will find it difficult to reconstruct protective dune lines under the present conditions.

“The best protection in this situation is to have a wide beach,” Shea told the board Thursday, “and that’s what the intent of the Erosion Control District Beach Re-nourishment plan is — to extend the width of that beach seaward.”

Shea maintains that preserving the dune system is impossible without a wide beach to sustain it.

He also discussed individual landowners’ efforts to build temporary storm relief and the financial and structural benefits of a joint restoration effort. To protect their homes from the recent storms, many residents have constructed temporary sand berms. Shea attests that, without unity in undertaking these projects, the location of the dune lines are inconsistent.

He admitted the berms provide temporary relief, but insists they have neither the quantity nor quality of sand required for substantial re-nourishment. Homeowners are willing to stabilize their properties at their own expense in the short term, he said, but ultimately hope to see a collective, long term plan in place.

When asked by the board how the impact of Hurricane Sandy would have differed had the re-nourishment project already been in place, Shea said, “Sandy has accelerated our agenda.”

He attributed damage to the width of the beach, stating, “Everywhere that had a narrow beach, there is no dune at all and the beach itself is compromised.”

Shea relayed his involvement in a similar nourishment project in Westhampton Dunes 20 years ago. Prior to implementation, storm damage consisted of two breaches through the barrier island and 120 damaged houses.

Following Hurricane Sandy, the district incurred “absolutely no structural damage to any home [and] absolutely no loss to the dune itself.”

Shea asked the board to compare this outcome with the damage seen in Bridgehampton and Sagaponack.

Dr. Kana further underlined the necessity of a long term nourishment plan. Kana has been involved in over 30 beach restoration projects, primarily along the eastern seaboard. His plan for the erosion control districts center around maintaining what he calls a “literal budget” of sand. Kana asserts that sustaining a level of sand on the beach continuously fortifies the dunes, which serve as the best protection against washovers and other storm damage.

He pointed to North Carolina’s Outer Banks region, an area he alleges slowed beach erosion substantially in the 1930s through similar measures to push up the dunes.

Ultimately, the proposed project aims to lessen the annual costs of protection for beachfront homeowners. According to Garvey, if the proposed restoration plan is enacted, “the cost over many years will be less than the cost of putting emergency berms in over and over. [Coastal residents are] paying tens of thousands of dollars for emergency protections, so you can understand why they are very anxious at this point.”

Town officials view the measure as a long term investment for the safety of personal homes and the recreational enjoyment of public beaches. In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, proponents have asked the town to move forward with the proposed project.

A public hearing on the proposed increase to the districts’ tax lines will take place on Tuesday, November 27 at 6 p.m.

Nor’easter Hampers Hurricane Cleanup as Erosion Concerns Grow for Some Residents

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By Kathryn G. Menu; Photography by Michael Heller

Just a week after parts of the East End contended with power outages, flooding and coastal erosion due to the impact of Hurricane Sandy’s landfall in New Jersey on October 29, residents braced themselves for a second powerful storm, a nor’easter, that blew through the region starting on Wednesday afternoon.

According to the National Weather Service, the nor’easter — dubbed winter storm “Athena” by The Weather Channel — was expected to bring wind gusts as high as 41 to 65 miles per hour potentially leading to more power outages and fallen trees. Rain and potential coastal flooding were also reported to be likely by the National Weather Service.

On Tuesday, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst issued a voluntary evacuation of low-lying areas in the town in anticipation of the new storm.

On Tuesday night, Sag Harbor Volunteer Fire Department Chief Pete Garypie encouraged residents in areas like Redwood, or other neighborhoods in Sag Harbor and North Haven prone to flooding, to evacuate on a voluntary basis as a precautionary measure.

Sag Harbor Village Police Chief Tom Fabiano began going door-to-door on Tuesday warning residents of the incoming storm system.

Southampton Town, coordinating with the Suffolk County Red Cross and local churches established temporary, overnight shelters for residents evacuating their homes at the Methodist Church, 160 Main Street in Southampton Village, at William Floyd High School, 240 Mastic Beach Road in Mastic Beach and at St. Joseph’s College on Sunrise Highway in Patchogue.

In East Hampton, The American Legion in Amagansett will be open as of 10 a.m. today, Thursday, November 8 to house those without power and give residents a place to warm up. Chicken soup and sandwiches will be offered as well.

For those without public water, East Hampton Town has also announced the Suffolk County Water Authority is distributing potable water behind the East Hampton Fire House on Cedar Street at the base of the communications tower, until further notice. Residents must bring their own receptacles.

Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride said clean up efforts in the village — led by Superintendent of Public Works Dee Yardley and Chief Fabiano — were going well. The village contracted with tree companies in an effort to move larger trees and limbs damaged during Hurricane Sandy off roadways and away from power lines.

Mayor Gilbride, like many East End officials, said ultimately Sandy largely spared the Twin Forks and while the new storm system may impact the South Fork, the region was in no way devastated, as were communities further west like the Rockaways, Breezy Point and Long Beach by Sandy.

Ultimately, said Gilbride, he was more concerned with beach erosion in East Hampton and Southampton towns.

“They are on the ocean, so unfortunately our neighbors have a far bigger problem with this storm than we do,” he said on Tuesday.

Beach erosion was reported throughout East Hampton, in particular in Montauk and in bay areas like Louse Point.

In Southampton, Jennifer Garvey — an aide to Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst — said the town was working overtime Tuesday to shore up barrier beaches, specifically in East Quogue and Tiana Beach in Hampton Bays.

Garvey said the town has also encouraged residents to construct sand berms in front of their beachfront homes in areas like Water Mill, Bridgehampton and Sagaponack. Those waterfront communities were so threatened by beach erosion before the storm that the town proposed a large-scale beach re-nourishment project, paid for largely by residents who live in the affected area.

In the meantime, with the nor’easter approaching Garvey said town officials met with residents on Saturday and advised them to continue the construction of sand berms in front of their oceanfront homes.

Garvey said town officials, coordinating with Southampton Town Trustees, enabled homeowners to place sand — either in the form of berms or in Geocubes (large sandbags stitched together) — by simply notifying the town rather than having to wade through an application process.

She said fees associated with these kinds of permits have also been waived, as have vehicle permits to ensure the work could be done.

Residents in that area of Southampton Town want to revive the $24 million beach nourishment program proposed earlier this year, but now see it as critical in the wake of the beach erosion from Sandy.

That plan, proposed to be funded largely by the community itself, stalled after two neighbors expressed concerns over their ability to foot their portion of the bill if Southampton Town agreed to the creation of these erosion districts.

Southampton Town Highway Superintendent Alex Gregor, said Garvey, has been working with his department to clean up as many roadways as possible, understanding the nor’easter could bring more downed trees and power lines.

In fact, the Town of Southampton has expanded its curbside fall clean up because of the impact of Sandy and the second storm. According to Gregor residents can place all vegetative materials, including leaves, brush, trees and branches on the curbside for pick up. No bagging of leaves will be required this year, according to Gregor. Residents are encouraged to get their debris on the curbside prior to November 19, he said.

On Wednesday evening, in an email sent to his constituents, Congressman Tim Bishop said his concern about the nor’easter was further erosion of the coastline, particularly on the North Shore of Long Island.

He encouraged any households or businesses damaged by the storm to file claims with their insurer, but also visitwww.disasterassistance.gov or call 1-800-621-3362 to assess their FEMA eligibility for funding.

Meanwhile, a virtual city of linemen and tree workers has popped up at the East Hampton Airport on Industrial Road in Wainscott, in trailers housing as many as 1,000 workers from across the country working to get power to the thousands of customers still in the dark in Suffolk County.

On Wednesday evening, LIPA officials warned that the nor’easter could leave many more without power by Thursday morning, even those who recently had power restored, but vowed to continue the restoration effort.


Get Your Gallop On

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The Horseless Horse Show Fundraiser for the Center for Therapeutic Riding of the East End (CTREE) will be held on Saturday, August 8 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the North Fork II Horse Show on Majors Path in Southampton.

Families, adults and children are invited to join the fun and help raise funds for CTREE. The horseless horse show will be run like a regular horse show with children and adventurous adults jumping and navigating a human size horse show course of jumps and obstacles. Ribbons will be awarded for each class.

CTREE is a not-for-profit organization on the East End of Long Island that specializes in therapeutic riding lessons for children with special needs. A member of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (NARHA), CTREE lessons are taught by NARHA guidelines and with certified instructors. Lessons are held at the Wolffer Estate Stables in Sagaponack as is the brainchild of local mother, Amanda Ross and instructor Karen Bocksel.

Studies have shown the distinctive, three-dimensional movement of a horse provides the input necessary to help a rider with sensory integration issues and presents physical challenges that lead to increased balance, muscle control and strength. Equine assisted activities such as grooming and tacking horses also help riders with sequencing skills and fine motor coordination and the relationships developed at CTREE provide a positive emotional experience for children with special needs.

Sagaponack Will Not Fight Petrello Case

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In response to a lawsuit filed against the Village of Sagaponack in September regarding its Coastal Erosion Hazard Law (CEH), Village Attorney Anthony Tohill has advised village trustees not to fight the case. It is now in the hands of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC), which was also targeted in the suit.

The suit was brought against Sagaponack Village, Southampton Town and the NYSDEC by attorneys representing Sagaponack property owners Anthony and Cynthia Petrello. Enacted by the village in June of this year, the CEH law requires new homes along the ocean to be set back 125 feet from the crest of the dune, creating more of a buffer between oceanfront properties and waterside dunes.

The Petrellos acquired a 1.5-acre piece of property from the White family of Sagaponack in 2010 and soon laid-out plans for a two-story, five-bedroom home to be built on the land. The original building plan was approved by the NYSDEC back in December of 2010. However, abiding by the village’s new CEH law, Petrello’s building plan would have to be set back an additional 30 feet.

Should the Petrellos ultimately win the case, they will be able to proceed with plans to build the two-story, five-bedroom home on the ocean, nuzzled up against the White Family Farm.

They’re Back At Poxabogue

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By Claire Walla

For 15 months, The Fairway Restaurant — a small white box-of-a-building connected to the Poxabogue Golf Course in Sagaponack — sat empty. After 22 years in operation, not a single side of scrambled eggs was served up. Not a single customer entered its doors. But it wasn’t because no one wanted to go.

Quite the contrary.

“We missed it terribly,” said Sag Harbor resident Joan Carlson.

For the past 20 years, Carlson and a group of nearly a dozen other women have met at Poxabogue on Tuesday mornings. They call themselves “The Tuesday Thinkers.” It’s a name which they said actually generates snickers from certain husbands who wonder what they do the other six days out of the week, but they don’t mind.

When restaurant owner Dan Murray was forced to shut his doors on March 30, 2010 because a lease agreement failed to be reached with the building’s manager, Ed Wankel, a large crop of loyal customers — including The Tuesday Thinkers — were forced to go elsewhere.

“We were like orphans caught in a storm!” Carlson continued.

That is, they were until this summer. After Southampton Town took-over the building’s management, Dan Murray very quickly entered into a new license agreement with the town. And after fully refurbishing the building’s interior, he reopened the restaurant — just like it was before.

“The first day we opened, the second customer we had walked in and said: Nothing’s different!” Murray recalled. “At first I got very upset” — Murray labored for weeks with contractors and suppliers to rebuild the restaurant after having gutted the place in the spring — “But then I said, ‘Wait a minute, that’s exactly what you wanted.’”

And after a frantic summer season, during which Murray said he and his crew (largely the same as it was before Fairway closed) worked through many of the kinks inherent in getting a business up and running, everything at Poxabogue is finally business as usual.

Though Murray said at one point he had considered changing the menu, and even considered revamping the interior design, he realized that snazzy aesthetics and innovative cuisine are not what keep customers coming back for more.

“I just think, especially with everything that we went through, people wanted their place back,” Murray continued. “And the best way to give it back to them is to give it to them the way it was.”

For Niki Yektai, that meant restoring unusually low countertops. In fact, Murray insisted on keeping the pint-sized countertops, even though mid-sized stools are hard to come by; Murray ended up shipping his in from Tennessee.

“They’re the perfect height,” Yektai exclaimed. In fact, she said she and her family are so smitten with them her husband designed the counters in her son’s studio with Poxabogue in mind.

Of course, she added, counters aren’t everything. Yektai prefers the Poxabogue crowd, which she called a “lovely mix of farmers and city people; I’m very comfortable there.”

And it doesn’t hurt that she isn’t barred from spreading out her personal papers while she sips her morning coffee.

“I’m a really bad customer because I will definitely bring my whole desk with me,” she admitted. “I’ll do some bills, then I’ll do some writing, or an illustration.”

Yektai, a children’s book author, even authored one of her books, “Bears At The Beach,” atop the surface of that unusually low countertop.

An atypical allowance for most Hamptons eateries, Yektai is in good company at Poxabogue.

Across the room from The Tuesday Thinkers earlier this week sat artist Leif Hope with a stack of sketches and a pencil in hand. As he flipped through the pages of caricatures he had drawn, he pointed to several that had been sketched at a table within the small restaurant.

“I’ve done a lot of drawings here,” Hope said. And with a coy nod, he motioned to the man sitting across from him: “Most of them were while I was waiting for him.”

Bernie Goldhirsch cracked a subdued grin. Goldhirsch and Hope have been coming to Poxabogue on a regular basis for several years. They are such regulars they give a friendly wave to nearly every customer that walks by in the span of a 20-minute conversation. In fact, it was Goldhirsch who formed a petition to bring the old Poxabogue restaurant back when it closed last spring. He said he got more than 500 signatures.

“In a community where a lot of the eateries are also snobberies, you need a place like Poxabogue,” he said. “Years ago, I realized [The Hamptons] is a place that’s filled with celebrities who don’t want to be known as celebrities. Whatever that need is, Poxabogue seems to be part of it. Every town needs an ‘Eddy’s Luncheonette.’”

Just last March, Murray signed a 10-year lease with the town of Southampton.

“So we’ll be here for at least another 10 years,” he said. “If not more.”

Petrello Sues Over Erosion Hazard Law

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By Claire Walla

What had sparked a wellspring of outrage from local homeowners and had even been featured in a glossy spread in Vanity Fair magazine has now turned into a lawsuit for the Village of Sagaponack.

Last month, Anthony and Cynthia Petrello filed a lawsuit against the Sagaponack Village Board of Trustees, the Sapaponack Village Planning Board and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The issue of contention is the village’s Coastal Erosion Hazard law, which was adopted in December of 2010, but went into effect in June of this year. The law effectively creates a larger buffer of land between coastline properties and the ocean, which — as it affects Petrello — means his current building application is non-compliant.

In 2010, the Petrellos finalized a deal to buy a 1.5-acre piece of property, a corner lot with a simple one-story cottage, that had belonged to the White family farm. Soon after the Petrellos bought the property, they submitted a building application to Sagaponack Village.

The plan was to tear down the existing cottage — a move that was okayed by the village’s architectural and historic review (AHRB) board in June — and erect a two-story, five-bedroom home on a footprint of 4,632 square feet. The building would be complete with a swimming pool, a library and a pool house, which would be connected to the main house by an enclosed walkway.

The plan was submitted to the village’s planning board in 2010 and approved on May 9, 2011. However, that was before the village enacted its new law.

“The new resolution we adopted gave a 125-foot buffer” between coastal buildings and the crest of the dune, said Sagaponack Village Clerk Rhodi Winchell in reference to the village’s coastal erosion hazard law. Petrello’s building application had been approved by the planning board and the DEC because the proposed building currently complies with the state’s imposed coastal erosion hazard line.

However, the village’s more generous setback would cause Petrello’s architectural team to have to redraft the building plan, pushing the structure away from the water by roughly another 30 feet.

“Had they been vested, then they wouldn’t have been in this predicament,” Winchell continued.

In other words, because no structural elements had been in place before the village passed its law, Petrello’s property is not exempt from Local Law No. 1, which, the village contends, currently requires the Petrellos to shift the plans for their new home back a bit.

Changing the architectural plans would place some strain on the Petrellos’ architect, Lisa Zaloga, who Sagaponack Village Building Inspector John Woudsma said already had her work cut out for her trying to fit the Petrello’s two-story home into that 1.5-acre parcel.

According to Woudsma, the property itself needs to sit two feet above the flood zone, and the height of the building needs to be capped at 32 feet from the natural grade, or 40 feet above mean sea level, whichever is more restrictive. This caps Petrello’s building height at 38.5 feet, which he said is pretty “squat” for a two-story structure.

Plus, because the lot itself is triangular in shape, it required the western wall to be designed in a rigid step-like shape to conform to the diagonal property line.

“For the tremendous restraints, the architect actually did a very good job,” Woudsma explained.

But, pushing the property 30 feet back would squeeze the building into an even smaller space, adding even more restriction.

In the lawsuit, drafted by Petrello’s lawyer, Nica Strunk, the plaintiffs argue that the DEC “improperly certified” Local Law No. 1 of 2011. The lawsuit goes on to explain that the Petrello’s application was part of the DEC’s “Letters of No Jurisdiction” issued on December 21, 2010, which therefore protects the Petrellos from having to comply to the village’s law.

What’s more, according to the attorneys, the New York Environmental Conservation Law (ECL), article 34 on coastal erosion “does not provide any authority for a local municipality to enact a coastal erosion hazard area law purporting to affect areas outside of the land defined in the ECL as ‘erosion hazard area.’”

Petrello’s building application is currently set to be reviewed by the AHRB at its monthly meeting this Friday, September 16, after having been postponed from last month’s meeting.

Two Men in Critical Condition After Plane Crash in Sagaponack

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Southampton Town Police confirmed in a statement on Tuesday, July 26 that two men, one of them 23-years-old, sustained serious injuries from a plane crash Sunday morning in Sagaponack. Both are receiving treatment at Stony Brook Hospital.

Above: Wreckage from the crash.  (Photo by Michael Heller)

Below: An image from the plane in Sagaponack this time last year.  (Photo by Daniel Gonzalez)

The antique plane was one of several participating Saturday in an “impromptu vintage plane club” whose members typically meet on a grassy landing strip that runs through Foster Farm in Sagaponack, Chief Wilson said Monday morning. He added that the exact cause of the crash is unknown at this time.

The Ryan PT-22 plane—a fixed-wing single-engine aircraft with an open cockpit—was manufactured in 1941 and deemed “airworthy” in 1956.  It has been registered to Taylor R. Smith, 54, of Wainscott since at least 2008.  Smith, who police confirm had been piloting the plane on Sunday, also brought the vessel through the skies over Sagaponack last year around this time for the same assemblage of vintage aircraft enthusiasts.


His passenger this year in the tandem two-seater was identified as Daniel Willman, 23, of Connecticut.

Though Chief of Police Bill Wilson said on Monday that he had received reports from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that the young passenger had died, he retracted that statement hours later.

In a follow-up statement released on Tuesday, Southampton Town Sergeant Lisa Costa wrote: “Both parties are being treated for their extensive injuries at Stony Brook Hospital.”

When asked whether or not the crash had caused any fatalities, Kathleen Bergen of the FAA commented: “You need to confirm the conditions of the victim with local authorities.”  Chief Wilson has yet to return calls for comment.

Bergen added that the FAA has sent an aviation inspector to the scene to investigate the circumstances that led up to the crash.

A local resident who responded to the scene after the crash said the plane—which landed on the White family property adjacent to the Foster’s farms—had rolled several times before coming to a stop.  Both the pilot and the passenger were badly injured from the shoulders up.

Police were initially notified of the crash at 10:13 a.m. on Sunday, after having received “multiple calls” of a small plane cash in the area of Sagg Main Street and Bridge Lane, according to a press release issued by Sergeant Lewis Scott that afternoon. Southampton Town Police Officers and members of the Bridgehampton Fire Department were dispatched to the scene.  After “a brief search,” they recovered the two-seater in a cornfield.

Southampton Town Police say several other local agencies assisted town police and FAA officials after the crash.  They include: The Bridgehampton Fire Department, the Southampton Fire Department, the New York State Police, Suffolk County Aviation, the Southampton Town Fire Marshall and the DEC.

Demolition Ok’d For Meighan’s Cottage

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By Claire Walla

Anthony Petrello is one step closer to developing his beachfront land.
Last Friday, July 15 the Sagaponack Architectural and Historic Review Board (AHRB) voted in favor of an application submitted by the Texas businessman to demolish the small cottage now resting on the grounds of the nine-acre parcel he purchased from the White family in 1998. The property deed was formally transferred to his name last year.
The board voted four to one, with one absentee: Tom White. AHRB Chairwoman Ann Sandford was the lone voice of dissent, but not because she believed the building necessarily needed to be preserved on the existing site. In fact, she said she agreed with other board members that the building’s history and current condition do not actually make it historically significant.
“I voted against [the existing application for demolition] because there was another version of the [application] that allowed for an option for a third party to work with the Petrellos so that if they came up with a mutually agreed upon plan they could move the cottage to another location,” Sanford explained in an interview.
“From my perspective, a lot of people had done research; they had gotten a hold of some families [who had lived in the cottage],” she continued. “I felt that it would benefit the community to leave that option open.”
At a public hearing on June 24, the AHRB heard from several Sagaponack residents who appealed for the preservation of the building, claiming it to be a piece of Sagaponack’s history.
The 585-square-foot building on Petrello’s property is known as “Meighan’s Cottage,” and until Petrello bought the property on which it sits, “Meighan’s” was one of six small structures that had been rented out every summer for decades. (The other five are still owned by the White family). It is also thought to be the oldest, having been built in the late 1930s.
A report submitted to the AHRB that summarizes the history of the cottage highlights the fact that these cottages are the last of their kind in the village. Similar sentiments were expressed in letters submitted to the board by Sagaponack resident Bruce Kaplan, and Robert Brewer, whose father began renting a cottage from John White Sr. in 1935.
“I believe these camps are of historical interest as they show how the Sagaponack beach transitioned from raw farmland to the built-up, very high-end beach homes that exist today,” Brewer wrote. “The Meighan Camp and the other five White camps, which have been preserved, are nearly the only ones still in existence. They are a piece of Sagaponack history which deserves recognition.”
The AHRB first heard from Petrello’s lawyer, Nica Strunk, and his architect, Lisa Zaloga, at the public hearing June 28. Both Strunk and Zaloga impressed upon the board several aspects of the building’s history that they said should prevent it from being considered worthy of historic preservation. Most notably, Strunk said historic preservationist Alison Cornish had already declared the cottage “noncontributing” and thus ineligible for preservation.
In a resolution adopted last week, the board indicated it was “unable to identify how the subject of the cottage contains any distinctive architectural features of historic value or how this cottage is in any manner distinctive.”
At a meeting on August 19, the AHRB will address a building plan for the property.

Former White Family Cottage Up For Demolition

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Nika, White Property-adjusted

By Claire Walla

One powerful Texas businessman. Five members of a long-time Hamptons farm family. And 57 acres of highly valued oceanfront property.
It’s an all-too-familiar equation. In recent years, acres of East End farmland have been sub-divided and developed by wealthy individuals seeking seaside solace from the big, bustling city. A village originally named for the abundance of what once grew there, Sagaponack (a Shinnecock word meaning “land of the big ground nuts”) now has only one working seaside farm.
While the story of farmland development has been told before, the White property in Sagaponack is somewhat unique. Not only was it recently the subject of a glossy exposé in the July issue of Vanity Fair, but the 57-acre parcel is one of the last working farms in the incorporated village.
While the long fight to preserve the flat vista is still in the throes of tangled litigation, this week’s chapter centers on the Sagaponack Village Architectural and Historic Review Board (AHRB).
Last Friday, June 24, Anthony Petrello, the Texas businessman, presented an application to the Sagaponack AHRB proposing the demolition of a 585 square-foot structure on a 9-acre parcel of land he purchased from the White family in 1998.
A big part of the larger controversy stems from Petrello and White’s contract of sale for the land. Written into the rider at the end of the document is a clause in which Petrello is granted a “right of first refusal.” In other words, should any one of the Whites attempt to sell the property to someone outside the family, they would be legally obligated to court Petrello first.
The relationship between the Petrellos and the Whites goes back to the ‘90s when Petrello and his wife Cynthia first began renting one of the six summer cottages at the southern foot of the White family compound — right beside the Atlantic Ocean. From east to west, the cottages are: “Liberty Hall,” “Shangri-La,” “Dune Tip,” “Wainscott Station,” “The Model,” and “Meighan’s Cottage.”
Though Petrello spent most of his summers in “The Model,” he negotiated a deal with the White family to buy the south-west corner of the land for $2.1 million. This parcel includes “Meighan’s Cottage,” which is now his to do with as he pleases.
Well, as much as anyone in the village of Sagaponack can do with their land as they please.
The application to demolish the small cottage has been met with outrage from some in the Sagaponack community who worry that the cottage will be replaced by a massive home. Though Petrello has already submitted architectural plans to the Village of Sagaponack for a two-story structure, these blueprints were not up for review last week.
During the public comment portion of last Friday’s meeting, Sagaponack resident and lawyer Bruce Kaplan explained his position as a community member bent on preserving the low-key atmosphere of the agricultural community. Together with other Sagaponack residents, Kaplan previously opposed the construction of the controversial 63-acre compound built by investment banker Ira Rennert in the late ‘90s, an event which largely led to the creation of Sagaponack as an incorporated village in 2005, giving the community more local control over such matters.
“One of your most important functions is to preserve buildings that possess special character, or value as part of the social or political [character] of the village,” he told the board.
Kaplan went on to explain the historical importance of the strip of six cottages on the White property (including “Meighan’s,” which belongs to Petrello) to the history of the Sagaponack community.
They are important, not only for the significance of the buildings themselves — “Meighan’s” was reportedly built by John White Sr.’s half-brother in the 30s — “but for the people who occupied them,” Kaplan said.
He told the board that Howard Meighan, who commissioned construction of the cottage, was an executive at CBS.
“Meighan was a person of some distinction,” Kaplan went on.
He urged the board to preserve “Meighan’s Cottage” by denying Petrello’s application for demolition: “Do not let it fall victim to a wrecking ball, caught in the path of a Texas tornado.”
However, according to lawyer Nica Strunk who is representing Petrello, “Meighan’s Cottage” lacks enough historical significance to be saved. Not only that, it presents major health hazards.
And while she gave in great detail her reasons for the property’s demolition, she began her case by addressing the board on a more personal matter.
“Before I begin talking about the legal issues, I wanted to explain a serious concern that we have as attorneys for the applicants,” Strunk detailed. “We’re worried that this meeting today really has less to do with the fact that there is a 585 square-foot building on this property and more with the people who are involved in this matter.”
She noted that local publications — not to mention the Vanity Fair piece — have outlined the personal dispute that’s welled up between Anthony and Cynthia Petrello and the White family. Strunk urged the board not to weigh its decision on White’s good reputation in the community — his family has farmed the same land since the end of the 17th century — but rather to “treat Anthony and Cynthia Petrello the way you would treat every other member of this village.”
Strunk criticized the board for calling a public hearing on this matter, when similar issues in the past did not warrant additional public discussions. Later, AHRB President Ann Sanford would defend the board’s decision, explaining that the public hearing was voted on unanimously by the board.
“It has been our practice [to call a public hearing] if one or more residents step forward,” she said. “That was a signal to me that this was an important issue for the community.”
Strunk continued, “Local gossip and inflammatory articles in Dan’s Papers could have a negative impact on the members of this village. It is imperative that [these issues] do not affect this board.”
Apart from personal matters, Strunk said the cottage is not historically relevant. Besides the fact that the structure has actually been moved from its original pilings, she noted that the architectural elements (sloped roof, partial sheet-rocking) don’t carry architectural relevance.
Plus, according to a report by historian Alison Cornish in 2000, Strunk explained the structure was labeled “non-contributing” as part of a survey of historic structures, which included buildings in Sagaponack.
Rounding off Strunk’s presentation, local architect Lisa Zaloga told the board that the building is, in fact, non-conforming to FEMA regulations, the pilings contain creosote and the interior tested positive for lead paint. Restoring the structure, she said, would be “almost impossible.”
“In terms of preservation, to make this building any kind of habitable structure, we would have to heat it, the roof-rafters are not sized correctly [and would] have to be removed and it would have to be insulated,” she explained.
“I’m concerned that there might be some people who idealize this property for what beach-front property should be,” Strunk continued. “The building is so small that it doesn’t even meet house size standards.”
“It is not under any standard worthy of preservation,” she concluded.
However, resident Edie Lutnick, whose property sits adjacent to Petrello’s land, echoed neighbor Bruce Kaplan.
She said she does not know either Petrello or the Whites very well and thus concluded, “I don’t have any bias either way.”
“I do, however, look out my window, and I look at the cottages down the line and it’s convenient to say that 500 square-feet is small. These cottages make up a whole, and they make up a whole on a farm that all of us have come to love,” she explained. “To take these cottages as if they are distinct individual things that you can take apart and rip away one by one is a disservice to the residents of Sagaponack.”
Lutnick urged the board to preserve the building in order to keep the historic nature of the cottage community intact.
“The reality is, this doesn’t have to be a residential structure. You can move the house back in compliance with the coastal erosion zone,” she added. “There is a way here that everyone can win.”
The hearing is now open for a 10-day comment period, which will close on Monday, July 4.
At the end of the hearing, Sagaponack Village Attorney Anthony Tohill asked Strunk whether or not it would be possible to preserve the building, but relocate it to another piece of land off of White’s parcel.
“I of course anticipated that question,” Strunk said with a grin. “The clients are open to that option. Our main goal right now is to get a building permit on this lot, and this is one of the steps. If there is any reasonable suggestion, we are open to it.”

Sagaponack Barn Allegedly Ignited By Hazardous Materials

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Heller_Schwenk Barn Fire_6709

By Claire Walla

On Sunday, June 26 at approximately 12:15 p.m. Southampton Town Police were alerted to a barn fire that erupted at Schwenks Farm on Montauk Highway in Sagaponack.

According to Southampton Town Fire Marshall John Rankin, the flames extended over the top of the barn by 20 to 25 feet, prompting help from at least seven volunteer fire departments in closest proximity to the East End parcel.

About 75 to 100 firefighters from Southampton Town, East Hampton Southampton Village, Amagansett, Sag Harbor, North Sea and Bridgehampton Fire Departments were on the scene at 3491 Montauk Highway, in the vicinity of Town Line Road and the Poxabogue Golf Center.   Rankin noted that three trucks were set-up with hoses, and an additional truck from Sag Harbor with a portable water tank assisted the fleet.

“They did pretty well,” Rankin said of the firefighting crew.  “They had the fire pretty much under control at about 1:45 p.m.,” which was when Rankin arrived on the scene.  “They were just getting ready to do salvage and overhaul when I got there.”

Though Rankin said no one was reportedly injured in the blaze, “unfortunately the building was a total loss.”

The fire is thought to have originated in the storage barn itself, which housed various farm equipment, including highly flammable grease and oils, as well as oxygen and Acetylene gas (materials that are often used in combination for welding).

“It appears as though Mr. Schwenk had been working inside the building prior to the fire,” Rankin explained.  “He was there that morning working on some stuff.”  One of the tasks he was reportedly working on included cutting a strand of polypropylene rope.  The Southampton Town Fire Chief noted that polypropylene rope is typically burned and therefore melted at the end to prevent the strand from fraying.   Though the official cause of the fire has not yet been officially determined, Rankin said “we’re working on the possibility that the rope had continued to smolder” after Schwenk left the building.

Because of the potentially hazardous materials stored in the old, wooden structure, Southampton Hazardous Materials Team responded to investigate the scene after the fire had been put out.

Rankin explained that there was a house and a garage located in relatively close proximity to the now-charred wooden structure, but said they were not threatened by the flames.

Southampton Town Police reported to the scene around 12:15 p.m. to set-up a perimeter around the building, which consequently blocked-off Montauk Highway between Sagg Road and Wainscott Harbor Road for about three hours.