By Stephen J. Kotz
Dennis Downes, the attorney for East End Ventures, the development group that wants to build a waterfront condominium project, told the Sag Harbor Village Board on Thursday, August 20, it was barking up the wrong tree if it thought his clients would sell their property to be turned into a park.
“The property is not for sale,” he told the board, adding his clients had recently taken on a new partner and were “going full speed ahead” with their plans.
Despite his protests, the board voted to ask Southampton Town to add 1,3,5 Ferry Road, three parcels at the foot of the Lance Cpl. Jordan Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge, to the Community Preservation Fund’s list of properties to be targeted for acquisition.
Mr. Downes represents East End Ventures, which, until this week, was undergoing Planning Board review for a proposed eight-condo complex at the site. On Tuesday, East End Ventures announced it had teamed up with Greystone Property Development, a New York-based real estate firm, to develop an even larger project. The new proposal would expand the project to 11 units with a marina by adding the property on Long Island Avenue, known around the village as the 1-800-Lawyer building after the advertisements of its former owner, attorney Bruce Davis.
East End Ventures’ principals include Michael Maidan and Emil Telal, who have had a strained relationship with the village that has included a number of legal battles over the decade they have owned the property they purchased from Harry Diner.
Mr. Maidan, who attended last week’s meeting, said afterward the village was not bargaining in good faith and had treated East End Ventures unfairly. “This is America,” said Mr. Maidan, a Russian immigrant. “This is not the Ukraine. This is not Crimea.”
The village has long envisioned developing a swathe of property it owns between the bridge and the Harborview Professional Building as a waterfront park, and in recent discussions with the Planning Board, Mr. Downes had said his clients would be happy to help make that a reality.
But adding the East End Ventures property to the park would significantly expand the scope of the village’s project.
This week, Mayor Sandra Schroeder and Trustee Robby Stein said the village was not trying to prevent East End Ventures from developing their land.
“We aren’t looking to stop a project,” said Mr. Stein, adding that the village has wanted to buy the property for years. “We’re looking that if there is going to be a sale of the property, we want to be a potential buyer.”
Ms. Schroeder reiterated that village officials acted quickly because they had been told real estate agents had been looking at the property this summer. “This is the first step in a long process,” she said of adding the property to the CPF list.
But before money from the CPF can be used for a purchase, there must be a willing seller, and Mr. Downes made it clear that was not the case.
“It’s not for sale, plain and simple,” he said on Tuesday. He added that the village’s sources must have mistaken representatives of the Greystone group as brokers looking to put the property on the market.
He added he had offered the property for sale to the village when Mr. Diner first put on the market for $7.5 million but was turned down, a claim Ms. Schroeder said village officials had no recollection of.
On Tuesday, Greystone issued a press release announcing that it had teamed up with East End Ventures “to develop a boutique residential project” featuring “artful landscape architecture intended to amplify the beauty of the exclusive waterfront property.”
The press release trumpets the fact the property is “the last undeveloped waterfront land adjacent” to the village business district, much as village officials have cited that feature in their effort to preserve it.
“I’m really a little upset that you called this meeting with two days’ notice without even a phone call to the property owner,” Mr. Downes told the board last week. East End Ventures has been trying to develop the land for 10 years, he continued. “It’s kind of late in the game to ask them to sell the property to the village.”