Sag Harbor Gas Ball Parking Lot Lease Extended For A Year

Sag Harbor will continue to lease the Gas Ball parking lot for another year. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

Drivers who find themselves circling Sag Harbor Village, looking for a place to park close to downtown on a busy day in the summer, will get a bit of a reprieve this coming summer: Mayor Jim Larocca announced he had worked out a deal to extend the village’s lease for what is known as the “gas ball” parking lot for another year.

National Grid owns the property, and the village has leased it for the last five years for $1 a year, for use as public parking. The lease was due to expire on December 31.

Last spring, the utility put the lease out to bid, and the Friends of Bay Street Theater, the nonprofit group that bought the Water Street Shops building as a future home for the theater, beat out the village for it.

The mayor stressed that the deal is a temporary fix that involved both the cooperation of National Grid and Friends of Bay Street “to defer” the new lease for one year.

“We have bought some time and reached an amicable deal,” he said.

The lot, at the corner of Bridge Street and Long Island Avenue, is designated for long-term parking of up to three days. It has space for approximately 75 vehicles, although an exact count is hard to obtain because the lot is gravel and individual spaces are not clearly delineated.

Larocca said he was able to convince National Grid to agree to the extension because Friends of Bay Street has signaled that it wants to use the lot as theater parking, but the current village code does not allow for parking lots that are not immediately adjacent to the site for which they are used.

Another reason for holding off, he said, is that the new waterfront overlay district expected to be approved by the Village Board in the next month or two will result in a number of zoning changes for the neighborhood. Finally, he said, with Friends of Bay Street or its chairman, Adam Potter, purchasing a number of properties surrounding the lot, the long-term picture for the entire block remains unclear.

Potter, speaking on behalf of Friends of Bay Street, has said the theater group wants to work out a deal that would allow the parking lot to be used by both the theater and the village.

The future use of the lot became an issue in last June’s village mayoral race after it was revealed that former Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy had written to National Grid, which had offered the property for sale at the time, urging it to sell it to Friends of Bay Street.

Mulcahy said she had written the letter because she believed the village could not afford to buy the property, and Friends of Bay Street had not yet purchased the Water Street Shops as a future home for the theater. She said she rescinded the letter after that deal was reached and National Grid said it would continue to lease the property instead of selling it.

At the same time, Larocca, who was serving as a village trustee at the time and would later defeat Mulcahy in the mayoral election, proposed that the gas ball lot might make a suitable home for the theater.

The property was once home to a landmark Hortonsphere, or gas ball, that was no longer being used and was disassembled when the property, a former manufactured gas plant, was designated a Superfund site. National Grid conducted a remediation project that involved removing tons of soil that had been contaminated with coal tar and other volatile organic compounds.