Sag Harbor ARB’s Reaction Is Mixed to Cinema Plan to Screen Roof Equipment

A computer rendering of the west elevation of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center with proposed white screening on the second floor roof hiding HVAC equipment.

The Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center has come up with a new plan to hide the heating and air conditioning boxes and ductwork on the cinema roof that was installed without approval from the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board.

A month after the panel shot down a tentative plan to camouflage the mechanicals with bold painted-on graphics, the cinema’s board chair, April Gornik, and a team of project professionals presented a formal proposal to the HPARB at its December 12 meeting to erect a white composite screen around the equipment.

The cinema’s application also calls for adding windows and an emergency exit door on the third floor Virtual Reality room, which cinema representatives said the village fire marshal had requested.

The appearance of the mechanicals on the cinema’s second-floor roof last summer prompted what board chairman Dean Gomolka called at the meeting “a deluge, a torrent of emails and calls and wondering what we’re doing at the board to protect the village from these unsightly views of what’s up there.”

Cinema Arts Center board chair April Gornik, left, appeared before the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board on December 12 with cinema construction foreman Scott Tucker; architectural associate Adrian Allen (not visible); structural engineer Jeff Ling; and AIA Principal architect Paul Drago. Peter Boody photo

Even though he said he liked “the screening idea,” he called for board members and cinema representatives to schedule a site visit on the rooftop to further discuss the proposal before making any decision.

The board agreed. It also voted to set a public hearing on the plan for its Thursday, January 9 meeting at 5 p.m. The hearing is required before the board may decide whether or not to grant the proposal a “certificate of appropriateness.”

“It’s looming,” board member Judith Long said when Mr. Gomolka asked for opinions on the proposed screening, various views of which were displayed at the meeting in computer-generated renderings.

Alternate board member Alex Pashkowsky called the screening “appropriate,” and board member Bethany Deyermond said “it needs to be done,” but agreed board members should make a site visit before deciding, as did board member Steven Williams.

“I’m not convinced screening is the answer here,” said board member David Berridge, who has been harshly critical of project architect Allen Kopelson and construction personnel for making changes without board approval.

In addition to the unapproved HVAC array on the roof, changes included the appearance last summer of a shed roof extending from the second-floor parapet to hide steel braces added to support a third-floor wall. The roofing was removed and the braces installed inside the building at the board’s insistence.

It was Mr. Berrridge who first proposed a site visit “up on the roof … [to] really figure it out,” as he put it.

“There’s a whole volume [that] has been built above the roof that wasn’t approved, wasn’t talked about” before the board granted a certificate of appropriateness for the cinema reconstruction project last year, Mr. Berridge said. “That’s just one of the many things that have happened to this building. And my level of trust has just been totally destroyed in the engineers and construction managers of this job,” he said.

Construction foreman Scott Tucker said he followed design plans. “Maybe the drawing” the board saw “was not accurate,” he said,

“This is my point: the drawings are not accurate,” Mr. Berridge said.

“Can I just state for the record,” Ms. Gornik said after further discussion, “that I take deep exception to the notion that we’ve been trying to cheat or lie or in any way pull the wool over your eyes about this? I’ve apologized before and I’ll do it again for the fact that these drawings weren’t presented properly. And as I said before, I’ll take responsibility, and it was a mistake that our architect made, and I do feel very badly.”

Mr. Kopelson was not among the cinema team at the meeting, which included Adrian Allen, an associate at Mr. Kopelson’s firm, NK Architects; Jeff Ling, structural engineer; construction foreman Tucker and architect Paul Drago, a principal at Mr. Kopelson’s firm.

“We go to historic houses and look at windows,” Mr. Gomolka replied. “I mean … it’s an historic building and the mechanicals went up there that were not represented correctly on the plan.” He thought “it would be prudent,” he said, “for us to … go up and take a look,” as Mr. Berridge had suggested.

Mr. Gornik said board members were welcome to visit. “I just take exception to the accusation of being a liar,” she said.