The response was resoundingly negative last week when April Gornik, the Sag Harbor Cinema Art Center’s board chair, presented ideas to the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board for softening the visual impact of the HVAC equipment on the roof of the cinema.
The ideas included partially hiding them with English ivy or “giant art deco posters” or painting them with bold geometric shapes, just as naval ships have been camouflaged during wartime, Ms. Gornik explained during the board’s discussion with her and architect Allen Kopelson on November 14.
“This is not what we approved at all … This is way out of line,” said board chair Dean Gomolka. “Are all your options camouflaging and painting these things?” he asked.
“This can’t stand the way it is,” said board member Bethany Deyermond.
The board did not address another option that Ms. Gornik said she’d been unable to present because she had not submitted renderings to the Building Department by the board’s deadline: extending upward a planned “green wall,” which will cover the exposed north and west sides of the building with vegetation, “that would be structured between each of the pilasters along the building,” Ms. Gornik said.
Mr. Gomolka said the “green screen” idea was the “closest to something” he thought landscape architect Edmund Hollander, who has been working on the project pro bono, “could pull out of his hat.”
The bulky equipment, highly visible from a number of angles in the heart of the village, does not conform to the conceptual plans that were originally submitted for approval to the board or the construction plans approved by Building Inspector Thomas Prieato in 2018, more than two years after a fire gutted much of the cinema building.
The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center, a nonprofit, now owns the project and expects to open it in early 2020 as a three-screen theater and educational center.
The rooftop equipment “became a city that just popped up there,” Mr. Gomolka said. “I have people questioning my sanity” because they think the HPARB — which judges the aesthetic impact of building projects and grants a “certificate of appropriateness” before building permits may be issued — authorized the HVAC installation when it approved concept plans for the project.
“I apologize because, frankly,” Ms. Gornik said, “this is the second time that something happened that we who are on the construction committee did not all know about.”
She was referring to a shed-like roof that appeared on the second-floor of the south and west walls last summer to hide steel supports that had been installed without a permit to brace the third-floor walls under a bank of windows. After a backlash from the board and the Building Inspector, the roof was removed and the bracing was installed inside the building.
“All of a sudden it was just there,” Ms. Gornik went on about the HVAC equipment. “I apologize. It’s making us crazy. It was not our intent. Now we have to deal with it and we’re trying to figure out some way of handling this aesthetically.”
Zach Studenroth, the board’s historical consultant, commented, “The greenery, would probably, of all the solutions, if you have to accept the massiveness of it, that would be the most consistent with whatever else is going to be happening there.”
“I just look forward to what you guys come up with next,” Ms. Deyermond told Ms. Gornik and Mr. Kopelson.
Board member David Berridge, an architect who has been sharply critical of the project’s construction management, reiterated his criticisms.
“The second time around makes it even worse,” he said to Mr. Kopelson. “You know, you came here with a problem last month, and we had to beg and plead and beat you over the head to get your engineer to come up with a solution that wasn’t being forced on us. I don’t know; did you see shop drawings of this?”
“Yes,” Mr. Kopelson said.
“And you approved them?”
“This was not on the drawings” the board had approved, Mr. Berridge said. “You presented a building to us that didn’t show this, and you went ahead and approved shop drawings that have this going up there, and we are all dumbfounded, and being bombarded by complaints. Someone’s head should be put on a block on this … You are stealing sky from every citizen of Sag Harbor. We didn’t approve this, and I do not want any screening ideas until the engineers come up with a solution to reduce them and lower them,” he said of the HVAC ductwork and boxes.
If shop drawings were presented to the architect that didn’t comply with the plans he had presented to the board, “There should have been a flag going up,” Mr. Berridge added. “You should have said no or come to us sooner. You’re putting us in a bad spot. This is my money you’re wasting.”
Asked for her opinion, board member Judith Long said, “I don’t know what to say. There doesn’t seem like there’s any solution to this.”
“We don’t know if there’s not a solution,” Mr. Gomolka replied.
“No, there is a solution,” Mr. Berridge said. “And no one’s exploring it yet aggressively.”