A 1-foot-wide, 1,895-foot-long parcel of land on the Napeague stretch, originally put up for sale for $10 by Suffolk County, will be sold for a whopping $120,000 after a bidding war between neighboring property owners sent the price soaring.
On August 30, the Suffolk County Legislature Budget and Finance Committee issued a recommendation to the legislature to accept the bid next week, making the sale official.
The skinny parcel, worthless on its own, became valuable as a thin access point to the ocean beach that became a battleground between an oceanfront landowner and the property owner directly behind.
When Marc Helie and the attorney for Kyle Cruz—both men have homes in Manhattan and on Napeague—showed up to claim the $10 piece of land, the price quickly rose 34 times, from $1,500 to $120,000, according to Wayne Thompson, the county’s property manager. Mr. Helie was the top bidder.
“It surprised everybody,” Mr. Thompson said. “It’s not really worth something.”
According to East Hampton Town Assessor Eugene DePasquale, the former landowner was being charged about $67.90 every year in taxes for the strip. He said Mr. Helie spent $120,000 on .048 acre—less than half a tenth of an acre.
Mr. Thompson said that the land had been taken by the county because its former owners did not pay taxes on it. To return the skinny parcel to the tax rolls, the county put it up for sale this year, for the second time, for just $10, he said. Letters went out to the six adjacent landowners, and only two, Mr. Helie and Mr. Cruz, responded. Last year, when the parcel went up for sale, no one responded.
“It’s not a piece of property you can walk right out and put your foot on,” he said. “You’d have a hard time locating it without a survey.”
He explained that the land is a “gore strip,” a term the county uses for a small strip of land that is not a great asset. In this case, he said it was “not about adding size [to a lot], it was a bidding war over access [to the beach].”
Mr. Cruz, who owns the landlocked parcel, could have accessed the ocean beach via the one-foot-wide strip of land directly beside Mr. Helie’s property, but Mr. Helie blocked that access with the purchase.
Suffolk County Legislator Jay Schneiderman, who is vice chair of the legislature’s Budget and Finance Committee, said Mr. Cruz could have benefited from the land had he won.
“It has value for both properties, but just a lot more value to one,” he said. “I don’t know how you walk down one strip that’s only one foot wide, but then in that case you can say your lot touches the ocean. One property [Mr. Cruz’s] really needs it because that’s his access to the beach. It’s very valuable to one of the guys to get down to the beach, but that’s not the guy who got it.”
Mr. Helie works for Chevalier Investments LLC in Manhattan, and Mr. Cruz is a managing director at Centerbridge Partners LP in Manhattan, according to his LinkedIn profile. Both men did not immediately return calls for comment on Monday.