Steinbeck Waterfront Park Negotiations Continue — Slowly

Ed Hollander reimagined an abandoned parking lot along Sag Harbor Cove into the proposed John Steinbeck Memorial Park.
Hollander reimagined an abandoned parking lot along Sag Harbor Cove into the proposed John Steinbeck Memorial Park.

By Christine Sampson

An online petition popped up last week demanding answers from Southampton Town about why the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park in Sag Harbor hasn’t materialized yet.

On Wednesday, Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman answered that question, blaming unresolved questions over the development potential of the approximately 1.25 acres of land that many hope the town will purchase from Greystone Property Development using money from the Community Preservation Fund.

“It’s not sorted out yet. There are some conflicting opinions,” Mr. Schneiderman said by phone. “We can only pay fair market value, which we are willing to do, but determining fair market value depends on the development potential. There is conflicting information as to what the development potential is.”

Greystone has rejected one formal offer from the town, Mr. Schneiderman said. He said he could not disclose the amount of that offer.

Greystone owns 1.94 acres of waterfront property at 1, 3, and 5 Ferry Road and 2 and 6 West Water Street, and is seeking to subdivide it for the purpose of building a three-story, 13-unit condominium complex on about a third of the property. The company is in talks to sell the remaining acreage for the purpose of creating the park.

The Express reported in June that Southampton Town was waiting on Sag Harbor Village to clarify whether the potential parkland property could still be developed. Mr. Schneiderman said Wednesday he had received a letter from Sag Harbor Mayor Sandra Schroeder saying yes, in fact, it could be.

That was based on the conclusion of Sag Harbor building inspector Tom Preiato who has determined that the development rights on the proposed parkland subdivision had not been removed in order to allow more condominium units on the proposed building site.

That is where the conflicting opinions remain, Mr. Schneiderman said. Once they are resolved, he said, the town would commission two more appraisals — on top of the two that had already been done.

“We’re doing what we can lawfully do,” he said. “I know it may not be moving as fast as some would like, but it’s not because of a lack of desire to assist the village in creating this park. I think this will wind up having a happy ending, but we have to do everything by the book.”

Greystone will appear before the Sag Harbor Zoning Board of Appeals on August 15 to seek a number of variances for its proposed condo complex. One of those variances will be for additional units beyond those that are grandfathered in from previous structures that existed on that property.

“Greystone is moving forward with sale negotiations and project approvals,” Karen Marotta, a Greystone spokeswoman, said Wednesday. “We echo the town’s sentiments in terms of coming to a conclusion.”

A screen shot of the petition started in support of the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park.

The online petition that appeared on July 26 seems to reflect community opinion that the park proceedings are taking too long. More than 1,100 people signed a petition last year indicating their support for a publicly-owned waterfront park in Sag Harbor, and the Sag Harbor Partnership raised a big chunk of money to hand over to the village to help develop such a park.

“We’re all puzzled as to why it seems to be stuck,” said April Gornik, the local artist and community activist who started the petition. “I wish Southampton Town would be more helpful in making the park happen, given the will of the people and the support it has already garnered.”

Sag Harbor Trustee Ken O’Donnell said this week he understands everyone’s frustration.

“There’s nothing more that this village board would like to see done than for Southampton Town to use CPF money to help purchase this property,” he said. “The thing that everyone has to remember is that the event held last year to raise funds for the park could never be comingled with CPF money. It will be Southampton Town’s decision whether or not they use the CPF money for this park, and it will have to be CPF money alone. I think there’s a misconception.”