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Nov 18, 2008 3:19 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Group to sue Bulova developers; project stagnates

Nov 18, 2008 3:19 PM

The developers of the former Bulova watchcase factory in Sag Harbor, who last summer received approval to redevelop the old factory building into 65 luxury condos just as the bottom fell out of the economy, are now facing the added hurdle of lawsuits against their project.

Financing for the $100 million complex has not yet been secured and the faltering economy could make that prospect increasingly more difficult.

In State Supreme Court in Riverhead last Wednesday, November 12, the environmental advocacy organization Group for the East End brought two suits against the Village of Sag Harbor, claiming its handling of the Bulova application was not up to state environmental standards, and contesting the final approval. State Supreme Court Judge Ralph F. Costello dismissed the Group’s suit seeking an environmental impact statement for the project, but he allowed the second claim to move forward, provided the Group also sues the developer, Sag Development Partners, a subsidiary of New York- and New Jersey-based firm Cape Advisors.

The Group’s next court appearance is scheduled for January 20. Jeremy Samuelson, an advocate for the organization, said it will file a suit against SDP before that date. “The wheels of bureaucracy grind on,” he remarked, explaining that the additional lawsuit will be virtually identical to the one remaining against the village.

The Group’s claims against the village, and now the developer, stem from the municipality’s handling of the application process, which, it says, did not follow standard state procedure. Early on, Sag Harbor Village Attorney Tony Tohill explained that because the Bulova site is on a list of federally recognized Superfund hazardous waste sites and must be remediated by mandate, the village was not required to follow standard environmental review guidelines.

Instead of ordering the developer to submit a comprehensive document summarizing the project’s potential negative impacts and mitigation measures, the plan was broken down and reviewed, issue by issue, in a long series of meetings before the various village boards. The Group has said that isolating each issue prevented an overall look at the project’s impact.

Since the project was approved, the developers have been in search of financing and the litigation is just another bump in the difficult road toward breaking ground.

“I worked hard to get in the end zone with that one,” Sag Harbor’s planning consultant for the Bulova application, Rich Warren said on Tuesday. Mr. Warren said he is unsure if the lack of financing is a sign of the economic times or if SDP is waiting until all legal issues have been resolved.

SDP project manager David Kronman acknowledged this week that his firm has not secured funding for Bulova, but he said talks with lenders are ongoing. “It’s obviously a difficult time to get financing,” he said, though he noted, “We are still 100-percent committed to the project.”

Mr. Warren said he has no reason to believe SDP will give up on Bulova but added, “It really doesn’t make a difference who builds it.” The planner said the approval was written very specifically so that anyone owning the property could go forward with it. “They could sell it,” he said. “It’s an approval for a project, not a project sponsor.”

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Thank you Group for the East End! Good to know there is an environmental watchdog out there with the resources to go after these ridiculous projects.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Nov 21, 08 11:33 AM
i guess they are just going to let this building disintegrate and collapse. No use in trying to improve the town by getting rid of an eyesore and making a good looking building.
By OrignialLocal (34), Southampton on Nov 26, 08 10:11 AM
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