Sag Harbor Cinema Project Takes Another Step Forward

A March 2018 rendering of the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center. Image by NK Architects and Croxton Collaborative Architects

It’s early spring, and Nick Gazzolo and April Gornik, the president and vice president of the Sag Harbor Partnership, say they can feel a certain lightness in the air surrounding the organization’s Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center project.

It’s blossoming.

Having achieved its goal in December of raising $8 million to purchase the cinema property, the partnership recently launched a capital campaign to raise the money actually needed to carry out its vision for the new cinema arts center. They have about $1 million so far, buoyed by a recent $1,000 donation from the Bridgehampton Association, a group of about local 40 women who called the cinema “a most worthwhile cause” in an announcement. And on Tuesday, the cinema plans took one giant leap forward when the Sag Harbor Planning Board put its seal of approval on the site plan, meaning the structural, engineering and environmental aspects of the plan have been deemed safe and sound.

No one from the community spoke at the Sag Harbor Partnership’s public hearing, and the planning board’s few questions revolved around the use of the proposed third floor and outdoor deck. Architect Allen Kopelson, who designed the plans along with architect Randolph Croxton, explained the maximum capacity of the roof deck would be 49 people, although the exact use of the third-floor space has not been finalized yet.

“I think they have answered the concerns of a loud, raucous fundraising party on the top floor,” board member Larry Perrine said.

Attorney Denise Schoen drafted a site-plan determination that requires the Sag Harbor Partnership to establish a community liaison who can address issues such as construction encumbrances or noise during the rebuilding process. The Zoning Board of Appeals formally approved several necessary variances on March 20, and in written correspondence, the fire marshal assured the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Association that the doors and elevator were, in fact, properly designed to meet building codes. The partnership’s last remaining hurdle is a public hearing before the Board of Historic Preservation and Architectural Review for the approximately 9,400-square-foot project, planned for April 12 at 5 p.m. at village hall. The BHPAR has already given informal but generally favorable feedback on the cinema plans during “discussion” sessions late in December and January.

“We’re grateful for their time and encouraged by the receptive response from the planning board last night, and we appreciate the good questions they asked,” Ms. Gornik said Wednesday. “We’re looking forward to the BHPAR meeting next month as well.”

On Tuesday, Ms. Gornik and Mr. Gazzolo said the Sag Harbor Partnership is in the midst of a sort of springtime growth spurt.

“We are essentially an all-volunteer army,” Mr. Gazzolo said. “That’s amazing — it’s amazing what people are willing to donate in terms of their time and talent. We’re moving into a new process where at some time there will be employees. Now there are going to be some professionals who come in, whether it’s construction or some other type of role.”

“And we still have to fundraise. Did we say that?” Ms. Gornik added.

The partnership’s goal is to have $3 million in hand by July 1, about half of the projected construction costs, to be able to break ground on the building. The next fundraiser is a May 19 yard sale at the Christ Episcopal Church, coordinated by Reverend Karen A. Campbell.

A conversation with Mr. Gazzolo and Ms. Gornik quickly grows from one about technical logistics to one about reinventing an institution. It’s fair to say the seeds of all sorts of future programming have been planted.

“If there hadn’t been the fire and we bought the building as we wanted to, we could be showing movies and having fundraisers and all sorts of things, but now we have to do a whole set of other challenging things that no one anticipated when we started this process,” Ms. Gornik said. “But we will do it because we love the cinema and love Sag Harbor.”