“Legs May Walk”


By Kathryn G. Menu

Ruth Vered and Janet Lehr’s quest to keep Larry Rivers’ “Legs” sculpture erected on the side of their Madison Street home may lead to a promise that those “Legs” will do some walking, right out of Sag Harbor Village.

On Tuesday, February 15 representative Clayton Munsey discussed several options for keeping the “Legs” at the couple’s home, the former Bethel Baptist Church in Sag Harbor, including the possibility for a provision that the sculpture’s stay at the residence could include a sunset provision.

Vered and Lehr’s fight to keep the “Legs” has been an on-and-off debate for over two years, as the Village of Sag Harbor entertains the couple’s request to legalize the sculpture in the historic district, but not as art, rather as an accessory use.

On Tuesday, that debate continued, with Munsey offering good faith efforts on the part of the couple to reduce the number of variances they would need to keep the sculpture, which was erected in 2008 without a building permit.

After meeting with Sag Harbor Village Building Inspector Tim Platt, Munsey said Vered and Lehr were willing to offer concessions, including lowering the height the 16-foot sculpture to 15-feet, within village code. The couple would also be willing to remove a concrete extension at the rear of their building to reduce lot coverage to allow the “Legs” to stay.

Two other suggestions — that the sculpture does not need a use variance as the property will remain residential and not change its use, and that Platt suggested the board should approve the setback variance as the residence is pre-existing, non-conforming to zoning laws — were dismissed by Sag Harbor Village Attorney Anthony Tohill.

Tohill said it is not that the property needs a change of use, but that the “Legs” are not typical or customary for a residence in a residential zoning district.

Tohill added that under current law, Vered and Lehr would have a “difficult burden of proof” to gain a use variance for an accessory use like the sculpture.

“They would have to demonstrate they cannot get a reasonable return on their property by not having the “Legs,” he said.

Munsey said he did not believe Vered and Lehr would be amenable to a discussion about a timeframe for their existence at the house.

“So, those ‘Legs’ could be walking,” said Gayle Pickering, chair of the ZBA.

“But if you approve them, they could be relocated to any residential property in the village,” noted Tohill.