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Oct 8, 2012 4:19 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

'Legs' Owners Claim Conflict Of Interest On Sag Harbor ZBA; Chairwoman Calls It Stalling Tactic

Oct 9, 2012 3:34 PM

The owners of the controversial “Legs” sculpture in Sag Harbor Village have filed legal action against the Village Zoning Board of Appeals, claiming the board chairwoman failed to disclose a conflict of interest she had with the owners and therefore tainted a board decision ordering that the “Legs” come down.

Board Chairwoman Gayle Pickering, however, dismissed the allegation as false and said “Legs” owners Janet Lehr and Ruth Vered filed it as a public relations tactic.

The board in April denied several variance requests that would have legalized the Larry Rivers-designed 16-foot-tall fiberglass sculpture of female legs and allowed it to remain standing outside the Henry Street side of Ms. Lehr’s and Ms. Vered’s corner-lot home on Madison Street. The board ordered that artificial lighting illuminating the statue stop immediately, and that “Legs” come down by September 15. The deadline came and went without the sculpture budging, because an Article 78 lawsuit Ms. Lehr and Ms. Vered filed in June allowed them to keep the statue up indefinitely, pending the outcome of the litigation.

The latest petition was filed in State Supreme Court by the women’s attorney, Stephen Grossman, and was received by the village on October 1. It marks Ms. Lehr’s and Ms. Vered’s continued fight to keep the sculpture standing.

The petition claims that Ms. Pickering had a conflict of interest because several years prior to the “Legs” application, she applied to have her own artwork shown at Ms. Lehr’s and Ms. Vered’s gallery, Vered Modern and Contemporary Art in East Hampton, but was rejected.

Because of this conflict and the fact that Ms. Pickering led board discussions about the application and voted to deny the requested variances, “the entire proceeding was tainted and the decision should be thrown out,” the suit states.

Ms. Pickering on Monday said she has never applied to any gallery. An artist and architect with her own company, Pickering Design in Sag Harbor, she said of the allegation, “It’s a total fabrication, but it gets them PR.”

“It gives the ‘Legs’ more notoriety, and it stalls the application process,” she added.

Ms. Lehr and Ms. Vered initially filed an Article 78 lawsuit against the board in June, seeking the annulment of the board’s determination that “Legs” was a structure and the overturning of the board’s decision denying the requested variances, the biggest of which would have allowed the sculpture to stand just 1 foot from the property line, rather than the required 35 feet.

The board failed to be swayed by the artists’ argument that “Legs,” as a work of art, should be exempt from village zoning restrictions and, via its vote of denial, upheld a previous determination by Village Building Inspector Tim Platt that the sculpture was an accessory structure that would need several variances to be considered legal.

Ms. Pickering said she believes the case will be thrown out of court. “It was a very well-written decision,” she said of the ZBA’s ruling.

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Why is this still an issue? Who is being damaged by the existence of this piece?
By VOS (1240), WHB on Oct 10, 12 11:58 PM