Sag Harbor Village Comes Up Short In Bid For Gas Ball Property

The gas ball parking lot at the corner of Long Island Avenue and Bridge Streets in Sag Harbor. STEPHEN J. KOTZ

Sag Harbor Village’s bid to obtain a long-term lease on what is commonly called the gas ball parking lot at the corner of Long Island Avenue and Bridge Streets has been rejected by National Grid in favor of a higher offer from Friends of Bay Street.

Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy confirmed the news on Tuesday afternoon, saying National Grid informed the village of the decision on Monday, but said she could not comment further because she did not yet know the details of the arrangement.

Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street, the nonprofit organization formed to build a permanent home for the theater, acknowledged last month that his group was interested in the property, but he would not confirm that it had, in fact, been awarded the lease.

“If we are the successful organization, I would look forward to working with the mayor and trustees to develop a win for the village and a win for our organization,” he said on Tuesday.

The village and Friends of Bay Street found themselves in competition for the property, which the village has leased for a nominal fee for nearly five years, after National Grid, which had put the property up for sale, changed its mind and instead sought to lease it. The lot provides much needed overflow and long-term public parking for the village, especially during the busy summer months.

Last year, Mayor Mulcahy had sent a letter to National Grid supporting Bay Street’s effort to purchase the property as a potential site for a new theater. But she withdrew that support once the property was offered for lease and Bay Street bought the Water Street Shops complex across the street instead.

The mayor would not disclose what the village had offered for the lot, other than to say it was for a 50-year term with the option to renew for an additional 50 years.

Village officials, who said they recognized the importance of maintaining the lot for much needed public parking, expressed a combination of disappointment and hope for a good outcome.

“It has always been my position, since the first year I was elected, that we needed to secure that lot,” said Trustee Thomas Gardella. “People who live in the village and work in the village need to park there.”

“I’m very disappointed the village did not manage to have the winning bid,” said Trustee Aidan Corish. He said he believed the property, which was used as a local gas manufacturing plant in the 19th century and is a remediated Superfund site, would come with extensive restrictions on its use that could preclude any building.

“I would hope Friends of Bay Street would maintain it as public parking,” he said, “but the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, as they say.”

But Trustee Bob Plumb, who has also questioned whether the property could be built on, said he saw no reason to panic.

“It’s not a disaster, in my opinion,” he said. “At least it’s still parking. At least it won’t be another building that demands more parking.” He added that the village could negotiate with Bay Street to maintain some public access to the lot.

“My sense is it has a long way to go,” said Trustee James Larocca of the deal, pointing out that it will take time for the lease to be finalized.

He did not share his colleagues’ concerns about whether the property could be built on or not.

“I continue to believe the higher and better use of that site would be for a new Bay Street Theater, rather than the 7-Eleven site,” he said, while arguing that the Water Street Shops building, which Friends of Bay Street bought for $13 million, should have been purchased to be demolished and added to John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.

Mr. Potter has said previously Bay Street has no interest in swapping parcels, but he stressed that Bay Street wanted to work with the village.

“I know the village is apprehensive because they don’t know me,” he said, “but I’ve always said I’m here for the village.”