Cinema Architect Gets Tongue-Lashing from HPARB Member for Unapproved Changes

A sloped roofing element that was added to the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center to hide support rods needed to reinforce the third-floor wall below a bank of windows was added without village approval. Peter Boody photo

The architect of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, which has been under construction for more than a year at 90 Main Street, got a tongue-lashing from a member of the village’s Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board last week for making changes “on the fly” without the board’s approval.

A key problem was what board chairman Dean Gomolka called a “mansard roof” element between the second and third floors that recently appeared on the western and southern sides at the back of the building under a set of third-floor windows.

“This change got made with no one thinking. It’s rush, rush, rush,” David Berridge, an architect himself, told the project architect, Allen Kopelson at the HPARB’s September 12 meeting.

The 45-degree-angled roof hides what Mr. Kopelson called reinforcing “kickers” that had to be installed to support the third-floor wall under the windows. The kickers were “the most expedient way to resolve” the problem, he said, after the project’s structural engineer told him “you can’t do this with the structure that you have.”

Mr. Gomolka noted that it’s a problem “to skip our process” for reviewing and approving architectural details in the village’s historic district, as required by the village code.

The board initially approved the Cinema Arts Center design in early 2018 but approved a revised proposal for an expanded third floor early this year, months after construction had begun.

“It’s so obvious” that “the construction manager is just making changes on site to suit him.” Mr. Berridge told Mr. Kopelson. “It’s just another example of being lazy and saying we are holding you up. This building is so important to Sag Harbor … These on-the-fly changes are doing the cinema a disservice.”

He added that a shiny, white coping that caps the parapet around the second-floor wall makes “this look like a mid-Island cineplex.” He called it “the cheapest, ugliest flashing.”

Mr. Berridge also questioned plans for a proposed “green screen” of vegetation to hide some of the mass of the large rear walls. Mr. Kopelson said landscape architect Edmund Hollander has said the vegetation will climb directly on the walls, which Mr. Berridge said he doubted.

“This is not what we approved,” Mr. Berridge said, expressing further irritation that “we’re told, ‘You’re slowing us down,’” by making an issue of it.

HPARB member David Berridge, second from left, addressing Cinema architect Allen Kopelson. Peter Boody photo

Board members and some citizens raised questions about the “mansard roof” and the coping with Building Inspector Tom Prieato, who urged the Sag Harbor Partnership — the project’s sponsor — to go back to the HPARB for approval. Mr. Berridge said the cinema project had prompted “lots of phone calls” and “backlash from the public.”

“I think it’s sad,” said board member Judith Long. “It’s getting bigger and bigger. It’s not our old cinema,” which was severely damaged in a fire on December 16, 2016. The Sag Harbor Partnership was in negotiations to the buy the cinema even before the fire and closed on it early in 2017. Through 2018, it appeared before local boards seeking approval for the creation of a three-screen, three-story cinema arts center.

On the HPARB’s agenda for September 12, the Partnership is listed as the applicant requesting a “certificate of appropriateness” for “the proposed addition of a metal roof section added due to structural requirements.”

From the start of the discussion, Mr. Gomolka advised Mr. Kopelson the application eventually would have to be aired at a public hearing according to the village code because it involves a structure covering more than 3,000 square feet in the historic district.

Meanwhile, he asked Mr. Kopelson to return for further discussion at the board’s next meeting on September 26 with a letter from the project engineer verifying for the need to solve a structural problem and a more thorough presentation of the options for addressing it.

“Our engineer let us know that we needed additional bracing,” said a member of the Sag Harbor Partnership in a statement made through its public relations firm on Friday. “Our architect came up with a solution and the ARB asked for a re-submission. We are currently looking into other structural solutions that keep us on track for our scheduled opening.”