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May 6, 2009 12:50 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

County Exec signs off on Boys and Girls Harbor purchase

May 6, 2009 12:50 PM

Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy signed off on a contract to purchase the former 27.8-acre Boys and Girls Harbor camp property on Three Mile Harbor in East Hampton on Wednesday, April 29, in what was one of the final steps in a land deal that has dragged on for three years.

According to Deputy County Executive Chris Kent, the contract has been forwarded to the county’s real estate office, which will in turn deliver the contract to attorneys for Anthony Drexel Duke, who agreed to sell the property to the county and East Hampton Town in 2006 for $7.34 million. The town, the county and Mr. Duke must now set up an official closing date.

According to several people familiar with the deal, the process was slowed considerably by the concerns raised by Dr. Jonathan Korn, a neighbor of the property who repeatedly petitioned the town to renege on the contract because he believed it was paying more than the property was worth. Dr. Korn and several other neighbors sued the town and the county last year because they were concerned that the park would be used for intensive recreational activities.

The county’s original agreement to purchase the property had been contingent on having an active use at the park, but the County Legislature ultimately agreed to a passive park use at the site last year, though it will include some limited active uses, such as picnic tables and a ball field. Neighbors worry that those uses will become more intensified as time goes on, and their litigation is ongoing.

Dr. Korn has repeatedly stated at Town Board meetings that he believes the town and county, which are splitting the purchase price, had paid too much for the property.

Last year, Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman took Dr. Korn’s concerns into consideration and asked the county’s real estate division to look into the appraisals of the property, while asking that a bill to approve the purchase be tabled several times during the investigation.

“I vetted this completely with the county’s real estate division. The feeling of the professionals within the county was that, at the time it was agreed upon, 2006, it was worth that,” said Mr. Schneiderman recently. “Today it may be worth considerably less, but when that decision was made by the legislature that was a legitimate price for property.”

Mr. Schneiderman’s case has been echoed by town representatives, including Town Attorney John Jilnicki, who has said that he believes it would be a violation of the agreement with Mr. Duke if the county did not sign the contract when the town had already signed it.

“I don’t disagree with the idea of it being a more passive park,” said Mr. Schneiderman of the property, which runs alongside Hands Creek. “If you’ve ever been along that creek, it is extraordinary, a very pristine location. I would hate to see it overly impacted by public use.”

“My position has been to follow the wishes of the town,” said Mr. Schneiderman. “They’re our partner here. I’ve been supportive thus far, but today I’m concerned whether the town has enough money to properly manage the property.”

“When the town supervisor said they would buy the property he was absolutely convinced he could use CPF funds to maintain the buildings,” Mr. Schneiderman said, referring to the Community Preservation Fund, which provides the money for open space purchases through a 2-percent real estate transfer tax. East Hampton Town has been under harsh scrutiny for its improper use of the CPF and the town is expecting results from a state audit of the fund within weeks.

“It’s not the county’s responsibility to manage the property,” said Mr. Schneiderman.

The town’s CPF management budget for this year includes funds that can be used to maintain the Boys and Girls Harbor property, but the document states that much of the work on the property will not be done until 2010. It remains to be seen whether the downturn in the real estate market will make it difficult for the town to find the money to manage the property.

The town is limited to spending no more than 10 percent of its CPF budget on stewardship and management. This year, it anticipates $10 million in revenue and plans to spend $894,000 on management—a large portion of 
which will be used to preserve the Selah Lester House on North Main Street 
and the Amagansett Lifesaving Station.

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With so much wealth in the Hamptons and all the fancy parties for the poor and cancer victims....doesn't anyone of them ever considered carrying on the wonderful work the Dukes did at the Boys and Girls Harbor???
By UNITED states CITIZEN (207), SOUTHAMPTON on May 6, 09 1:01 PM