Kapito House Nears ARB Approval

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By Stephen J. Kotz

The Sag Harbor Board of Historic Preservation on Thursday signaled it would approve the construction of an approximately, 4,700-square-foot house on three merged lots on Hillside Drive East in the Sag Harbor Hills neighborhood.

The application was brought before the board by Mile High Partners, LLC, whose shareholders are Robert and Ellen Kapito. Mr. Kapito is the president of the BlackRock investment firm.

The proposed house is one of several that have touched off alarms in the traditionally African American enclaves of Sag Harbor Hills, Azurest and Ninevah. Residents fear that as vacant real estate grows scarce on the East End, speculators are turning to their neighborhoods where they can find bargains in modest homes, which are then targeted for demolition and replacement with much larger houses.

Despite lengthy testimony from East Hampton attorney Jeffrey Bragman, who questioned the accuracy of the plans presented by architect Peter Cook and urged the ARB to use its power to safeguard the ambiance of the community and several neighbors, the board’s chairman, Anthony Brandt, said its hands were tied.

The board closed the hearing on the project and is expected to issue its approval within the coming weeks.

Mr. Brandt acknowledged that residents of the neighborhood have organized with the goal of creating a new cultural conservation district encompassing all three neighborhoods, but he pointed out that it has not yet been formalized or adopted by the village.

He also pointed out that the house had been reduced in size from about 6,300 square feet to its current size.

“We wish we could do more, but we can’t do more,” he said. “This is a big house, but there are other big houses in the neighborhood. I don’t feel we have the legal ability to do much more than the law allows us.”

Board member John “Chris” Connor said he was “conflicted” by the application, while fellow board member Chris Leonard said opponents were asking the ARB to interpret the code in a way it typically does not.

“I’m sympathetic to the expression if you get one large house, you get another large house and you get another large house,” he said.

“This community is special and unique, and construction really warrants some careful examination with the idea of understanding what this community is about and why it looks the way it does and why it has appealed to the people it does for the last 75 years,” Mr. Bragman said.

He said residents were worried about their neighborhood “turning into a different kind of enclave,” one that would be dominated by “large houses on small lots walled in by hedges.”

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