By Stephen J. Kotz
Two years ago, North Haven Village Mayor Jeff Sander announced that the village had convinced Stuart Hersch, the president and CEO of Cantor Fitzgerald, to preserve the historic Point House, a North Haven landmark that was built in 1804 by the Payne family and lived in for many years by members of the Fahys family of Sag Harbor watchase factory fame.
Under an unusual deal, the village Zoning Board of Appeals allowed Mr. Hersch to move the colonial house from its site overlooking Sag Harbor to a position on Ferry Road, where it would be used as guest house, while he was permitted to build a new house on the waterfront portion of his property.
“A couple of years ago, we were optimistic we had a win-win with the owner that would grant him an opportunity to have a second home on his property,” Mr. Sander told the village board on Tuesday.
But Mr. Sander, who said he had been in discussions with Mr. Hersch for some time, said Mr. Hersch “has no interest in the house, looks at it as a financial liability, and has for the last two years, I guess, been prodding the village and the town to compensate him in some way so he can afford to maintain it.”
The mayor said he would speak to Mr. Hersch later this week to see if he would be willing to transfer the deed to historic house and a small lot surrounding it to the village, so that it could preserve it.
“I’m not optimistic he’d agree to do that,” Mr. Sander said, although he added, “It seems to be the perfect opportunity and one I think would be great for the village.” The mayor noted that the house is gutted and portions of its exterior exposed to the elements.
Mr. Sander said that the village obtained a grant from the Southampton Community Preservation Fund to help Mr. Hersch maintain the house, but that he had refused to accept the money. He added that he was given a substantial break on his real estate taxes because the building is historic.
“It would certainly provide him with the opportunity to fund whatever minor changes he needs or whatever restoration he needs,” the mayor said of that tax break. “He wants to condemn it and tear it down unless he gets further monies from the village or the town.”
Other board members were taken aback by the news. “What’s his argument for circumventing his original agreement?” asked Trustee James Davis.
That is the crux of the problem, Mayor Sander responded, noting that the deal simply allowed Mr. Hersch to maintain the historic building on his property as a second home. “Unfortunately it did not specify you have to restore it or maintain it,” he said. “It just allowed him to have it. We don’t have a lot of leverage there.”
Although Mr. Sander said Mr. Hersch believes the house is deteriorating and not worth saving, Trustee James Laspesa, an architect, scoffed at that suggestion. “That structure’s fine. It’s just an old house,” he said.
Although Mr. Laspesa said he would like to see the house moved up the road to the same property as old North Haven Schoolhouse, Mr. Sander said he thought that would prove too costly, and said he would prefer to see it remain at its current site and possibly be used for some type of low-impact village use.
He said he believed the village could once again petition the town for CPF grant money to make sure the property is protected and suggested the public might support such an effort, as it has supported the proposed John Steinbeck waterfront park in Sag Harbor. “I think there would be a tremendous amount of public support potentially in the form of contributions,” he said.