Testing the Limits in Ninevah

A rendering of the proposed property at 48 Lincoln Street in Ninevah Beach
A rendering of the proposed property at 48 Lincoln Street in Ninevah Beach
A rendering of the proposed property at 48 Lincoln Street in Ninevah Beach. Peter Cook Design

By Kathryn G. Menu

Manhattan attorney Bruce Bronster won approval from the Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees on Tuesday night for a special permit that lets him pursue a 5,263 square-foot, six-bedroom home at 48 Lincoln Street in Ninevah Beach.

The proposal drew community residents en masse for a spirited debate in which some backed the proposal while others aired opposition to amped-up development in Ninevah and neighboring Azurest and Sag Harbor Hills.

The permit was needed to build a home larger than 4,000 square feet, the cut-off under new residential zoning enacted earlier this year. The Lincoln Street lot’s size enabled Mr. Bronster to seek a special permit from the village to erect a home as large as 5,580 square feet.

It wasn’t his first venture in the area: He’s incorporated at least a dozen limited liability companies associated with homes or lots in the three traditionally black neighborhoods, filings with the New York State Department of State in 2015 and 2016 show.

For instance, Mr. Bronster, a partner at white-shoe law firm Windels Marx, incorporated 20 Meredith Holdings LLC in November, 2015; 10 Lincoln Holdings LLC in April, 2016, and 81 Harbor Holdings LLC in March, 2016.

Named for 20 Meredith Avenue in Azurest, 10 Lincoln Street in Ninevah Beach and 81 Harbor Avenue in Sag Harbor Hills, the LLCs all are domiciled at Mr. Bronster’s 69 Harrison Street home, the records show.

Bruce Bronstern at Tuesday night's meeting.
Bruce Bronstern at Tuesday night’s meeting.

His attorney Alex Kriegsman argued that based on lot size, the proposed Lincoln Street dwelling’s gross floor area, or GFA, could have been larger, and he said the plan, designed by architect Peter Cook, would leave much of the landscape “undisturbed.” It does include a pool.

Under current zoning, the lot could be subdivided as of right, allowing for two separate homes, each with a gross floor area over 3,700 square-feet, Mr. Kriegsman said.

“There could be two houses here, two septics, two pools, two driveways and much more natural vegetation would be disturbed,” he said.

The attorney filed a handful of letters from neighbors supporting Mr. Bronster’s plans. Speaking up at the hearing, Ninevah resident Nancy Sorrentino said, “It’s tasteful in terms of size and style with the rest of the neighborhood. I’m pleased to see a dilapidated house replaced by a tasteful one.”

But the median GFA in Azurest, Ninevah and Sag Harbor Hills is only 1,445 square feet, so “clearly a house over 4,000 square feet is out-of-scale development,” argued Camille Clark of the Sag Harbor Hills Improvement Association.

Replacing small homes with large residences forces up housing costs, she said, adding, “We have to think about properties and houses that come in under $1 million. When you don’t, you remove affordability.”

Wilson Place resident Will Sharp said the project’s size made it “an outlier.” He said Redwood and Cove Road had recently seen similar development, and now, a rash of properties were being bought in Ninevah.

“I welcome new construction; I welcome new design … but I think this is a tipping point,” he said.

Harding Terrace resident Noel Hankin said he welcomed the Bronsters, calling them “wonderful people,” but felt the home’s scale was out of character for Ninevah.

“I think that’s the responsibility of the village, to maintain the existing character of the neighborhood,” he said.

Steve Schucker, whose property is adjacent to Mr. Bronster’s, backs the project: “I dread the idea of two homes splitting this property,” he said.

“We spent a lot of time designing the house to make it fit into the neighborhood,” Mr. Bronster told trustees. He said he’s lived in Sag Harbor as a weekender for years, recently joined the Ninevah Association, informed the group of his plans and offered to meet anyone to discuss them.

“I want to be a good community member, I want to be a good town member,” he said. “I like working with the community.”

The board approved the permit by a 4-to-0 vote, though Trustee Ed Deyermond was not in attendance. Mayor Sandra Schroeder said both the Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board and Harbor Committee still must sign off on the plan.